Two of the best programs in college basketball over the last few years come from the West Coast yet both were looking for their first Quad 1 win of the season. Gonzaga is now 0-4 in Quad 1 games and those opportunities are going to be hard to come to by for the Zags going forward (@ Kentucky, @ San Francisco, @ Saint Mary’s). The Zags had no excuses and they came up short with their first double-digit loss at the McCarthey Athletic Center since 2012.
Worth mentioning the students were still on Christmas break. It truly sucked not having them in attendance for such a high-caliber game, the atmosphere just doesn’t feel the same.
This was another case of Gonzaga looking like a different team in the second half against San Diego State. Tonight made me miss Drew Timme more than ever. He was the guy, a dude who was vocal and willing to take the big shots. It doesn’t look like anyone wants or is willing to carry that heavy responsibility on this year’s squad down the late stretch. Graham Ike (20 points on 8-13 FG, 10 rebounds, 2 steals) and Anton Watson (16 points on 6-10 FG and 1-1 3PT, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) were trying to be that guy against the Aztecs but to no prevail.
Jadeon LeDee’s jump after last season’s run has been an unexpected surprise even to the San Diego State coaching staff. The fifth year senior was forcing his way to rim and drawing fouls all night (9-12 FT). He finished with 20 points on 5-12 FG and 1-1 3PT to go along with 7 rebounds, 3 assists. LeDee wasn’t on the radar of many scouts but his NBA Draft stock seems to be gradually improving.
Darrion Trammell (17 points on 7-12 FG and 3-7 3PT) was special off the bench. His unlimited range and the ability to create space makes him a microwave type of player. When he watches one go through, he suddenly gets hot and does everything quickly with his speedy ball-handling.
Reese Waters for the Aztecs also contributed a game-high 22 points with 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. San Diego State is bringing on a lot of experience and I won’t put anything past them heading into March.
As for Gonzaga, when will this three-point shooting slump end? Over the last five games, the Zags are 22-91 3PT (24.1 3PT%). Once West Coast Conference play starts, it should start to gradually go up (hopefully) but this is a massive problem going forward towards the postseason. Especially for the guards like Ryan Nembhard who finished with 15 points and 9 assists but went 0-5 from deep while forcing 5 turnovers. The 15.0 3PT% on the season for Nembhard is killing this team.
Speaking of turning the ball over, Gonzaga giving up 21 points off 13 turnovers really jumped out at when checking the box score. The 11.8 TO per game average for the Zags now ranks 208th in the country and was a major reason the Aztecs made that late first half comeback and then jumped out to such a big lead in the second half.
Can’t go without mentioning the drama. Dusty Stromer has a lot to learn still. Should that have been a technical foul? Was it worth it to even get involved? Should Mark Few have benched him for the last 15 minutes and did that cost the Zags the game? You can have many different takes with what transpired but the freshman grew from that experience. He’s young and this will only make him a more smart player.
This team has the talent, it’s just about everyone within the limited rotation executing and contributing for a full 40 minutes. Nobody can have an off night against the better competition. Maybe a switch in the starting lineup could lie ahead?
The West Coast Conference looks to be a 1-bid league and the path to a WCC title starts now. The Zags finished the non-conference with a 9-4 record and it’s time to tip-off league play against Pepperdine in the Kennel on Thursday at 6 PM PT on ESPN+. 2024 can’t come soon enough, Happy New Year!
Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho