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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over Portland


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

Gonzaga won the game, and that’s always going to be priority number one. But the Zags are still not the Zags, and it is taking some herculean performances for them to pick up wins. Last Saturday, it was Drew Timme’s 38 point effort against Pacific. This time around, it took Julian Strawther going nuclear with a very efficient 40 points for Gonzaga to edge past the Pilots.

  1. Thank goodness Julian Strawther was dialed in. The Pilots were committed to throwing lots of bodies at Timme whenever he had the ball on the block, so there was plenty of space for everyone else. Strawther caught fire and produced an all-time scoring performance. It’s so fun to watch guys get hot like that. Strawther is always a confident guy, but you could tell his confidence was at another level in the second half.
  2. The Zags refuse to make things easier for themselves. Playing sound defense and taking care of the ball is going to take you a long way. They didn’t do enough of either. Fortunately for them, Portland didn’t take advantage but it doesn’t have to be this hard.
  3. Gonzaga had a full week of practice to prepare for this game but the defense didn’t look that much better. I guess if you want to look at this from a glass half full perspective, you could say the energy and attention to detail was marginally better on that end of that floor, but there were still quite a few missed coverages. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Portland only had 29 points in the first half, the Gonzaga defense conceded a ton of good looks during the first 20 minutes. Portland just missed them. My optimism that Gonzaga will figure things out on defense is rapidly fading.
  4. Anton Watson is simply unreal. I can’t think of another player who quietly produced outstanding performances like Watson. He flies under the radar, but makes subtle, winning plays at both ends of the floor all night long.
  5. Timme did a really nice job of taking what the defense was giving. Portland threw lots of bodies at him, so he demonstrated a lot of patience and unselfishness by not forcing it when he didn’t have the looks and deferring to the hot hand in Strawther.
  6. Kudos to the Pilots for bouncing back from their blowout loss to Gonzaga just two weeks ago with a much more disciplined and cohesive performance. If you missed the first game and only saw this one, you would probably think it was impossible that Gonzaga won the home leg by 40.
  7. I know Mark Few loves to tighten up the rotation as the season goes along and lock everyone into set roles. Many times that is good because everyone knows what role they are being asked to play on a nightly basis. But it’s time to expand the minutes and roles of Hunter Sallis and Malachi Smith. This team just needs a jolt in the backcourt right now, and maintaining the status quo doesn’t appear to be the answer.
  8. Juan Gorosito, you do not want to take on Drew Timme. Don’t embarrass yourself.
  9. Nolan Hickman was battling foul trouble, but right now he’s also battling to find a way to materially impact games. As a facilitator and scorer, there are simply too many extended periods where it feels like he’s anonymous.
  10. There is no team in the WCC that is scared to play Gonzaga right now.