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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Portland

17-2

NCAA Basketball: Portland at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It was a long night for Gonzaga’s taco partner as the Pilots conceded the three-point line to their hosts, who did not decline the invitation.

  1. I realize most opponents are focused on defending the interior against the Zags considering they’re the best team in the country at 2PT field goal percentage. But, when the Zags start the game lighting the net on fire from the three-point line by making four of the first five attempts, with each make by a different player including the two bigs, maybe think about extending that defense out a little further to contest the perimeter? Shantay Legans took a timeout a minute into the game after the Zags made their first two (and before they made the next two), and I’d really like to know what was discussed because it didn’t look like their approach to defending the three-point line changed much in those opening minutes or for the rest of the game.
  2. The wild part about Portland’s defend the paint approach is that while they kept the paint crowded, most of the time when the ball was in there to Drew Timme, three of the five Pilots down there were neither guarding Timme or their man.
  3. Gonzaga’s long distance shooting continues to trend upwards during conference play. I’m almost convinced that it will no longer be a major concern during the tournament. Almost.
  4. I think this is the second game in a row where the Zags have inadvertently scored a basket for the opposing team with a deflection on a loose rebound. That’s how good these guys are at scoring, folks. They can’t help but make buckets for the other team.
  5. Hunter Sallis is feeling the freedom and confidence to shoot the three-ball, which we didn’t see much of it during the non-conference play this season. Per Mark Few, Sallis and the staff spent time re-working it before the season started and is now paying dividends. Oh, and also, he’s playing defense at an elite level right now. As we’ve noted for weeks now, he shows major strides forward in his game with each passing week, and it’s exciting to think about the player he can be during the tournament.
  6. Anton Watson is an absolute wrecking ball off the bench. I don’t know if it’s because of his demeanor or that he’s not a starter, but opponents constantly seem to underestimate him or not even realize what he can do at both ends of the floor. He is making them pay for it every time now. 14 points while shooting a perfect 5-5 from the field in a single half of work just seems like normal production from him now. That’s how well he’s been playing for the last 6-7 weeks.
  7. Chet Holmgren only took six field goal attempts, and all of them were from the three-point line where he converted four. That takes his season percentage up to 45.6% (26-57). That’s an INSANE conversion rate for a 7-foot freshman, who did not get off to a strong start from long distance at the beginning of the season. His shot continues to look so confident, and is looking much quicker and smooth. He’s clearly been putting in a lot of work on that aspect of his game.
  8. Portland’s Mike Meadows followed Shantay Legans from Eastern Washington to Portland, and it was evident why he was such an important piece for Legans. Just a sophomore, Meadows is going to be the foundational piece for what Legans plans on building in Portland and a nice addition to the WCC’s cast of talents.
  9. When your opponent is setting a record for made 3s in a game, you can’t expect to win by shooting 3-23 (13%) from the arc in comparison. The chances of upsetting a significantly more talented team if you’re unable to shoot the ball well from long distance is incredibly slim. Legans needs to go find himself some shooters, as Portland is shooting about 32% from three as a team this season. That won’t get it done.
  10. Despite the major deficit on the scoreboard, the gulf in talent on the floor, and some of the questionable defensive calls and execution referenced above, the Pilots still looked way better in this game than they ever did during the Terry Porter era. Legans is the real deal as a coach and he’s going to keep pushing that team on an upward trajectory over the next few seasons. I’m excited to see what he can accomplish over there.