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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Saint Mary’s

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NCAA Basketball: St. Mary’s at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t pretty, but games against Saint Mary’s rarely are. Nevertheless, Gonzaga did enough to hold off their rival and will return to the top of the AP Poll on Monday. That counts as a successful week in my book.

  1. You could see that Gonzaga was adamant about trying to push the pace as much as possible early in the game, which I think is the right approach against a team like Saint Mary’s. But it did result in the Zags forcing some possessions that were outside the flow of the offense, which the Gaels would count as a victory. The Zags have to straddle that line of aggressiveness with smart play. Instead, they were playing fairly wild basketball during the early stages of the game.
  2. Gonzaga’s work on the offensive glass was suboptimal during the first 10 minutes of the game, which I felt was a major factor in allowing the Gaels to hang around despite how poorly they were shooting the ball. That’s a credit to SMC who clearly made it a point of emphasis to bump Gonzaga out of rebounding position, but that’s poor from the Zags who allowed them to do it consistently.
  3. Saint Mary’s guards had a horrible time being defended by Hunter Sallis. He came off the bench and effectively erased whoever he was guarding from the game by pairing phenomenal effort with excellent technique. He even used his defensive talents to win a post-up battle with Matthias Tass, who had five inches on him. What a beast.
  4. Drew Timme LOVES scoring buckets on Saint Mary’s. Timme has been in the WCC for three years, and yet, Randy Bennett acknowledged he still has no answer for him, but Timme seemingly has an answer for every defensive question that Bennett throws at him. Timme would have the Wooden Award locked up if he could play the Gaels every night.
  5. Andrew Nembhard turned up the aggressiveness getting to the rim or posting up Tommy Kuhse to beat Saint Mary’s defense. I appreciated that the Zags didn’t keep settling for threes when they weren’t falling, and remembered to use their athletic advantage to their benefit.
  6. The Zags built a double digit lead in the first half despite only making a single three (by Timme, naturally) during that time. That half probably went as well as Randy Bennett could have possibly hoped for and his squad was still looking down the barrel of a 13-point deficit. The Gaels aren’t built to come back from double digit deficits (though I realize they managed one against USF a few weeks ago).
  7. Even when he’s not in position for a rebound or a block, Chet Holmgren’s never-ending arms puts him in position for a rebound or a block. Just a complete nightmare to deal with for opponents and a key fastbreak starter for the Zags because of that ability.
  8. Allowing Tommy Kuhse to score 16 points and keep Saint Mary’s offense afloat was wildly frustrating. Nembhard got crossed up by him a couple of times, and was beat off the dribble too many times over the course of the game. He’s not going to enjoy watching this tape back.
  9. Gonzaga’s second half defense left a lot to be desired. There were several communication breakdowns and lax defending of the three point line though I’ll acknowledge there was probably some surprise that the Gaels were firing up shots earlier in the shot clock than they normally do.
  10. The late game execution was gross. The game was gross. But I’ll always take the W.