clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Michigan State


NCAA Basketball: Armed Forces Classic-Michigan State vs Gonzaga Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Rule number one when playing hoops on the deck of an aircraft carrier: Don’t fall in love with the 3-ball. Rule number two? Give the ball to Drew Timme and get out of the way:

  1. Shooting conditions were always going to be tough in this game. You know, what with the outdoor elements on an aircraft carrier introducing wind, strange sight lines, and glare from the setting sun. Gonzaga’s ability to get easy buckets in the paint should have mitigated a lot of those issues, but the Spartans did a good job of defending entry passes and the Zags also let them off the hook by settling for too many jumpers. Tom Izzo has coached an aircraft carrier game before, and he game-planned accordingly by daring the Zags to shoot.
  2. This was not the game to be launching from the perimeter. Going 3-12 from the three-point line in the first half was not surprising, and wholly avoidable. That made it more perplexing when the Zags continued to fire them up into the second half even though it seemed obvious that an outdoor game on the deck of an aircraft carrier was not the most shooter-friendly environment.
  3. Uneven start from Nolan Hickman as he continues to settle into the lead guard role and all the responsibilities that come with it. He was one of three Zags to reach double figures with 10 points, but it came on 4-11 shooting, 4 turnovers, and foul trouble. There’s so many decisions required at his position, plus the need to have a great feel for the game and understand when to be aggressive and when/how to get teammates going. Gonzaga will need him to make big leaps over the next few days because the schedule doesn’t get easier.
  4. Gonzaga struggled mightily without Anton Watson on the floor. That’s a testament to how important he is to this team and how valuable his skillset is. He’s a key ingredient to Gonzaga’s winning formula.
  5. I love Efton Reid’s intensity, but he also has to learn how to play physically without fouling (see Watson, Anton). He doesn’t help us by sitting on the bench with foul trouble and it deprives him of much-needed reps. He still has work to do to acclimate to Gonzaga’s style of play.
  6. Michigan State got going late in the first half when Rasir Bolton, Timme, Watson, and Reid were all planted on the bench with foul trouble and the Zags were playing a lineup with Julian Strawther and Ben Gregg at the “4” and “5” respectively. I suppose we needed to test the quality of the depth early, but that early test didn’t yield a positive result.
  7. The Spartans punished Gonzaga repeatedly with ball screen action, and the Zags seemingly had no idea how to defend such a basic concept. No one was tagging the roller which ended predictably with either a free alley-oop, lay up, or a foul by whoever was arriving late. Considering Michigan State is, on paper, the weakest of Gonzaga’s premier non-conference opponents there is a lot of work to do over the next few days before the Zags head to Austin.
  8. Chemistry is usually a given with Gonzaga teams, even at the beginning of the year, but it seems like this team lacks it on the court at the moment. The transfers (Malachi Smith and Efton Reid) are still settling in and figuring out their role, but that doesn’t explain why the rest of the squad is struggling to coalesce.
  9. Great defensive effort from Hunter Sallis in the second half. His work locking up Joey Hauser was an underrated factor in Gonzaga clawing back into the game after going down 12 points with 17 minutes left.
  10. Basketball on a boat! Was it practical? Certainly not. Should these types of games count in the win-loss column? Debatable. Was it fun? I’d say yes! In the end, I suppose that if the service members who were able to attend enjoyed the experience then these types of made-for-TV events are fine. The basketball game is secondary in that context.