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10 Observations From Gonzaga’s Win over Montana


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

Gonzaga made some history with their ten-point win over Montana last night, setting a modern Division I record with their 72nd straight home win last night in The Kennel. It was a hard-fought battle against the Grizzlies, and there was plenty to observe in the penultimate game of the Zags’ non-conference schedule.

  1. It’s been mentioned a few times now, but we should really appreciate how significant Gonzaga’s home-court advantage is. The Zags have now gone nearly four years without a loss in Spokane, a testament both to the success and consistency of Mark Few’s squads and the support they receive from the home crowds.
  2. Also mentioned on the broadcast last night, the Zags extended their winning streak against unranked opponents to 96 consecutive games. It’s another indication of the team’s consistency: they have to beat the teams they’re supposed to, and they almost always do.
  3. As far as the game itself was concerned, things got off to a sluggish start, as Montana opened up an early ten-point lead. Considering the lack of a student section, impending holiday break, and potentially overlooked opponent, it wasn’t all that shocking, but it was good to see the team sort things out before halftime.
  4. A big turning point in taking back momentum was improvement on the defensive end. Montana hit their shots and controlled the tempo early, but better pressure and active hands by the Zags forced missed shots and turnovers that allowed them to get transition opportunities and more consistent looks on offense.
  5. Of course, Drew Timme did Drew Timme things. He had a season-high 32 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and two steals, but numbers only tell part of the story. His offensive prowess and much-improved defense will always be the centerpiece of this team, no matter what else goes on.
  6. Speaking of Timme, this play was so awesome that it deserves its own observation.

7. Another aspect of Ben Gregg’s game that stood out last night was his floor spacing. The Zags’ ball movement and offensive flow stalled out at times, and having a big who can shoot helped space the offense and find good looks, even if he wasn’t taking the shot.

8. Malachi Smith looks to be finding his groove in the Zags’ system. It’s taken some time for last year’s SoCon Player of the Year to transition to a bench role, but last night showed he is getting more comfortable at finding his spots to score and be involved. He quietly scored in double figures in less than 20 minutes of action.

9. The balance of playing time at the two-guard slot will be something to keep an eye on going forward. Rasir Bolton was saddled with some foul trouble and did not score until the final minutes, leading to another extended run from Hunter Sallis off the bench. Sallis is going to continue to get time solely for his defense, so it will be interesting to see whose expense that will come at as the season rolls on.

10. Montana showed a lot of fight coming back in the late stages, cutting the gap back to five and making The Kennel sweat a bit over the final minutes. Good on them for hanging tough against a formidable opponent in hostile territory, but also props to the Zags for not “drinking the egg nog too early” and closing things out.