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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s loss to Saint Mary’s


NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at St. Mary’s Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Ugh. Gonzaga didn’t deserve to win this one. The Zags failed to show up while the Gaels and their crowd were in the mood for an upset right from the opening tip. It is wildly frustrating to see such an uninspired performance from just about everyone wearing a Gonzaga jersey, except for Rasir Bolton, in a rivalry game in the final WCC game of the regular season. Hopefully it gets the Zags in the right mindset now that they’re playing elimination basketball the rest of the way, though I hate the talking point that late season losses can be good for the Zags.

  1. It was disappointing to see the Zags make so many poor decisions in the first half of the game. It was an uncharacteristic opening 20 minutes from a group that is usually so composed and comfortable with what they do. From my vantage point, it felt like the decision making got more indecisive and desperate as the shots continued to rim out, which simply fed the crowd and only compounded a bad night.
  2. The Zags had numerous chances to make the comeback happen and (quite literally) fumbled it away just about every time. It seemed like they were not quite recovered from their initial shock of how poorly they were playing in the first half, and were missing that killer mentality in the second half to make the comeback happen. Better find it before the calendar flips to March on Tuesday.
  3. The GU coaching staff changed up the defensive assignment on Tommy Kuhse, with Rasir Bolton marking him to open the game rather than Nembhard again whom Kuhse had a strong night in Spokane a few weeks ago. I appreciate the willingness to make that adjustment from the staff, but apparently neither he or Nembhard could solve the Kuhse riddle.
  4. Credit to the Gaels for their defensive effort in the first half, that was as poor as we’ve seen Gonzaga play on offense this season. A lot of that stemmed from the work they were doing inside on Timme who has historically crushed them. They contested Timme’s catch point on just about every entry pass, helped quickly on Timme, with those helpers coming from different angles to disrupt his timing and frustrated him into forcing up some very tough shots en route to a scoreless first half that featured an 0-8 performance from the field with 3 turnovers.
  5. The results were not great when Gonzaga tried to push the tempo and play at their preferred speed, with most of those possessions ending in a forced shot or a fumbled turnover. We saw it happen in the first game in Spokane too. The Zags need to exercise more controlled aggression in these scenarios.
  6. The Zags were shockingly poor at protecting the ball against digs from Saint Mary’s help defenders during the first half. That is basic, fundamental stuff, and just indicative of the collective brain fart the squad was experiencing during the first half.
  7. Gonzaga shot 6-24 inside the arc in the first half. Remember, this team leads the nation at 2PT field goal percentage at 61.6% (going into the game). SMC executed its defensive game plan to perfection, but it was also just one of those nights for Gonzaga.
  8. Saint Mary’s could teach a class on slowing down Gonzaga’s transition offense. They don’t turn the ball over, and were extremely disciplined with applying enough initial ball pressure on a change of possession to slow Gonzaga’s breakout just enough to get bodies down the floor and set up their defense.
  9. As well as they executed, the Gaels needed some randoms to have great nights to pull off the upset. They got that from Mitchell Saxen and Jabe Mullins, who combined to provide 14 points off the bench while Gonzaga’s bench didn’t find the scoring column.
  10. In these types of match ups when you’re playing an opponent that is so familiar with what you do that they know exactly what type of passes you are looking to make in any situation, you cannot be lackadaisical in any aspect of your game. We saw too much of that from the Zags in this game. Saint Mary’s took complete control of the game at the opening tip and Gonzaga totally capitulated.