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Anton Watson Leads the Charge and Beats UCLA, 69-65

Gonzaga leaves the Maui Invitational with a 2-1 record.

Allstate Maui Invitational - Gonzaga v UCLA Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Anton Watson is that dude. A career-high 32 points on 14-15 FG and 3-3 3PT to go along 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block from the mayor of Spokane. He carried the Zags to this victory.

I’ve been saying for a while that he has the ability to take over a game and be the best offensive option. Watson did exactly that while dealing with early foul trouble against their rival in UCLA. The Zags finish 5th in Hawaii in the loaded tournament field.

Watson was really doing this on his own as he wasn’t feeding off his teammates as much as you would think. The rest of team combined 9-38 from the field as well. It was just the 5th year senior being aggressive, playing isolation a ton, stepping out to the perimeter and going deep in his offensive bag of tricks. He scored 17 of Gonzaga’s 31 second half points.

The UCLA bigs had no answer for him all night long. Adem Bona (11 points, 4 rebounds) had a relatively quiet night for himself since he was dealing with foul trouble and only played 22 minutes. The guards in Sebastian Mack (16 points, 7 rebounds and Lazar Stefanovic (16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) as well as Ilane Fibleuil (6 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks) off the bench had to pick up the slack for the Bruins but it just wasn’t enough.

Give major props to everyone for the Zags on the defensive end, especially the bigs. The stifling interior defense kept the Bruins out of their comfort zone and without an answer for most of this game. Gonzaga fans know the offense is going to be top tier under Mark Few year in and year out. If the other side of the ball can continue like the way the Zags as whole played tonight on a consistent basis, not many teams in the country will be able to compete with the Zags.

One glaring issue for this game being so close was the missed free throws. Don’t make this a normal habit because it’s nasty. The Zags could have blown out the Bruins if they didn’t go 17-29 FT (58.6 FT%).

Overall, this Maui Invitational trip was a positive and learning experience. The depth in the frontcourt, no problem. The depth in the backcourt is another story. Ryan Nembhard and Nolan Hickman can handle themselves, no worries there. Dusty Stromer’s stats don’t wow you but he impacts the game with his hustle and active hands. Outside of that, someone needs to step up and be a reliable option coming off the bench for the Zags.

More reps for Luka Krajnovic and Jun Seok Yeo next Tuesday at the Kennel against Bakersfield would be great to see. Support off the bench from everyone will be needed when Gonzaga takes on Isaiah Collier and USC in Las Vegas.

Fun fact of the day? Mark Few has a 7-2 record against UCLA in his historic career. Happy Thanksgiving!

Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho