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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Santa Clara

14-2

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Santa Clara Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Another WCC game, another demolition derby as the Zags destroy Santa Clara in their first true road game of the season. The Broncos claimed some nice wins in that gym this season against Stanford and Nevada, but the Bulldogs showed up focused and ready to continue their red hot form to start WCC play. They did not disappoint.

  1. It has been a common refrain all season long that this is the best the WCC has been in a long time, or maybe ever. And yet, despite that, the Zags find themselves averaging 114 points per game in conference play and have not yet encountered any type of resistance. That’s a testament to how good the Zags are, not the same old, same old from the rest of the WCC.
  2. Anton Watson had a really low key but exceptional defensive play midway through the first half. He stepped above the half circle in the paint to draw a charge and then once the driver committed to side stepping around Watson he abandoned the charge position and forced the driver into a miss by altering his lay up attempt. That was not as easy of a play as Watson made it look.
  3. Perhaps no sequence better demonstrated the difference between these two teams than a pair of backdoor cuts by each team late in the first half. Nolan Hickman cut his pass on the baseline but his shot attempt was blocked at the rim, though the Zags still scored because Anton Watson was right there to clean it up and score with a putback without having to come back down with the ball. Santa Clara got the ball and set Jalen Williams up for a similar backdoor lay up but he got blocked at the rim too. However, the Broncos didn’t come away with any points because there were four Zags around Williams and no Broncos in the area.
  4. After Gonzaga’s offensive explosion over the last few games, the Broncos were committed to disrupting their transition game as much as possible by getting everyone back down the floor to set up their defense rather than crash the offensive glass. It didn’t matter. The Zags get the ball up the floor so quickly and seem to always make the right decision to shift a defender out of position.
  5. I’m not really sure what opposing teams can do right now to slow down the Gonzaga offense. Timme no longer misses on any shot attempt from inside the arc. Nembhard always makes the right decision with the ball. Bolton and Strawther can score from anywhere on the floor, and Chet Holmgren can just drop the ball in from anywhere with his Space Jam stretchy arms.
  6. Speaking of Strawther, he didn’t even have any points in the first half (his only attempts were a pair of threes), and the Zags still had 60 points at the break. He’s the team’s second leading scorer and the offense doesn’t miss a beat when he’s not scoring.
  7. Santa Clara needed a big game out of Josep Vrankic to pull off an upset, but from the outset of the game he looked uncomfortable in his typical scoring positions. Vrankic didn’t even score his first points until the 17-minute mark in the second half! Chet Holmgren, who was tasked with defending him, wasn’t even doing anything special to defend him. He made him uncomfortable simply by existing and taking away his daylight with his length. That’s what makes him so special.
  8. Nembhard’s ankle injury sustained at the start of the second half will be something to keep an eye on moving forward. Yes, he only stepped out of the game for a minute or two before re-entering, but his movement was definitely a little impaired the rest of the way. Considering the Zags had a 20-point lead, it was a little surprising to see him back in, but perhaps he and the trainers were okay with testing it to make ensure it wasn’t a more serious injury.
  9. This week was a bad look for the “Drew Timme isn’t in the conversation for National Player of the Year” crowd.
  10. It should not go unnoticed that in a game where the Zags were up 33 points with nine minutes to go, Anton Watson and Nolan Hickman could still be found diving to the floor and fighting for loose balls. You have to respect the winning mentality at all times.