A tale of two halves describes the first round of the Maui Invitational for the Zags perfectly. I don’t know what happened in Mark Few’s locker room at halftime but no one of his boys could make anything on a consistent basis coming out of it. It sucks cause the Gonzaga big men were putting together a team effort shutting down Zach Edey, forcing him to take bad shots in the first half. But they were dealing with the 2023 National Player of the Year. He quickly turned around his play in the second half as he finished with 25 points on 8-16 FG and 9-10 FT to go along with 14 rebounds and 3 blocks. I said this earlier in another piece but going to have nightmares tonight about the friendly giant.
Although, Purdue is much more than just Zach Edey. Look at Braden Smith with his quick offensive pace in the second half for the Boilermakers. The sophomore finished with 13 points but was so unselfish with the ball in his possession. Always looking with his eyes up and at all angles of the court. 6 assists and 5 steals against a perennial program in Gonzaga?
Graham Ike (17 points on 6-10 FG, 7 rebounds, 1 block) looked like he was ready to take over this game against a struggling Zach Edey but went dead silent in the second half. Not just him, essentially this whole team couldn’t get anything to fall to save their life. Don’t get me wrong, the looks were there but just not rolling in which makes this loss that much more frustrating.
Here is a question that came out of this squad's first loss of the season and will be a continuing conversation for a long time it feels like. Who is the top offensive scoring option going forward? In the frontcourt, it most likely will be Ike but I think it should be Anton Watson with his way more diverse style of play, experience in the program, and better all-around game. How about out of the backcourt? Thanks again to Ryan Nembhard for coming to Spokane cause you are making Nolan Hickman look that much better as a scorer compared to last season.
The best part about such a loaded Maui Invitational field is you can take the night, learn from your mistakes and follow up the right way the next day. The Syracuse Orange lost to #7 Tennessee Volunteers yesterday and look to turn their Maui experience around as well. Be very worried about Judah Mintz. With that being said, S/O to my friends at WAER Sports in Syracuse for getting us prepared.
LISTEN: One of @Cuse_MBB potential opponents tomorrow is @ZagMBB. The Orange are 2-0 against the Bulldogs all-time. This time, the West Coast powerhouse could prove to be more challenging. @Hudson_Ridley looks into a Zags team with one very familiar face.https://t.co/BSuJCYm7zJ— WAER Sports Talk (@WAERSportsTalk) November 20, 2023
Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho