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

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NCAA Basketball: West Coast Conference Tournament-Gonzaga vs Saint Mary’s Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are WCC Champions once again, and should be the No. 1 overall seed when the NCAA Tournament bracket is unveiled on Sunday. The Zags have been challenged over the last few weeks, but they answered the bell this week.

  1. Just as they did in Moraga, the Zags got off to another slow start in this one. But, they showed better composure this time around and didn’t let the game get away from them in the opening minutes and continued to focus on trying to execute.
  2. Gonzaga needed a strong performance from Julian Strawther, particularly from the perimeter to help open up the lane a little more and make Gonzaga’s offense more multi-dimensional. His first half performance fit the bill perfectly, and needs to be a catalyst for his tournament run if Gonzaga is going to make a return to the Final Four.
  3. When Hunter Sallis is aggressive on offense and moving towards the rim, he puts so much pressure on the defense. Gonzaga has needed more offensive production from the bench in recent games, and they answered the call during the WCC Tournament. And, of course, Sallis’s defense was excellent once again. I would have liked to see more of Sallis guarding Tommy Kuhse in the second half when SMC made its run. He did the best job of defending Kuhse.
  4. Chet Holmgren had a rough first half on the offensive end, and was visibly annoyed about it. I actually loved seeing that irritation out of him. You could see how much he cared, but he didn’t allow it to become negative frustration either.
  5. The fact that the Zags were up by double digits at the half despite Chet Holmgren and Drew Timme combining to shoot 1-9 from the field with four points combined must have had Randy Bennett concerned. The Gaels got the half they needed from Timme and Holmgren, and didn’t have anything to show for it.
  6. Give SMC credit for being able to successfully lock down the paint against Gonzaga two games in a row. They are the only team that has been able to do it consistently this season, and you can see how much harder the Zags have to work when Timme and Co. are disrupted inside.
  7. This was one of Gonzaga’s best defensive performances of the season. The attention to detail and communication were much better than they were in Moraga 10 days ago, and every player took on the responsibility for winning his matchup and executing the team scheme. The defense was the key to Gonzaga building a double-digit lead despite an offense that struggled at times throughout the game.
  8. We saw much better re-posts from Timme late in the second half than he showed at Saint Mary’s. He was patient and kept things simple, and the Zags were rewarded with buckets on those possessions which were desperately needed.
  9. The first 30 minutes were rough from a shooting perspective, but Andrew Nembhard found his stroke when it counted most and came up huge to close out the Gaels. He wouldn’t have had the opportunity if not for Strawther carrying the offense in the first half, and Bolton stepping up in a big way throughout the second half before Nembhard closed things out. What a luxury to be able to lean on a trio of that caliber when Drew Timme, an All-American favorite, and Chet Holmgren (a likely Top 3 pick in the NBA Draft) don’t produce to their normal standards.
  10. The 20th WCC Tournament Championship for Gonzaga, and the 18th for Mark Few as head coach which is the most of any head coach in Division I history. That’s a testament to Mark Few, and all the players he’s brought in over the years. Never take this era for granted.