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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over BYU


NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Kennel sounded like it was absolutely rocking to produce a quintessential college basketball night in Spokane. This game wasn’t always pretty, but Gonzaga got the job done when it needed to.

  1. The Cougars will not miss seeing Julian Strawther. The junior win has had BYU’s number this season, and is maybe the biggest reason that Gonzaga swept the Cougars in their last WCC campaign.
  2. Gonzaga’s defense to start the game wasn’t as bad as the scoreline would suggest. At the first media timeout, the Cougars were only trailing by two points thanks to a flurry of threes made despite some solid halfcourt defending. I could only count one three out of 4 made in the first 5:26 that was the result of a defensive breakdown, but that wasn’t the case as the game went on. The breakdowns started to come towards the end of the opening half as the guards got lost on a handful of rotations that gave the Cougars some freebies. I don’t take these games in from courtside but it feels like the Zags just go on prolonged stretches of time where they stop talking on defense which is resulting in the scrambles we’re seeing at the end of too many possessions.
  3. BYU’s offense was completely carried by the 3 (7-16 in the first half). They weren’t doing anything that was particularly exceptional on the offensive side of the ball, and just made an absurd number of late shot clock 3-pointers. Two of those 3-pointers in the first half were bank shots that had no business going in. It’s tough to argue that Gonzaga should’ve game-planned its defense to be tighter on the perimeter considering the Cougars are one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country (ranked 280th going into the game). On the other hand, in both games against Gonzaga this season the Cougars have shot the ball like everyone is Jimmer Fredette. Which version of BYU do you plan for?
  4. It was a tale of two halves for the backcourt. The first half performance from that unit (3-10 FG is not going to get it done) was completely lackluster and Hunter Sallis was the only one who was impacting the game thanks to his on-ball defense. To their credit, they stepped up as a group in the second half and delivered down the stretch, with Bolton delivering 9 points via a big 3 and a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line to help ice the game, and Malachi Smith delivering strong defense of his own and a big 3 around the 8-minute mark that helped Gonzaga put together its run that would re-take the lead.
  5. Timme going down and grabbing his ankle gave me a feeling I haven’t felt since Jalen Suggs went down against West Virginia with what a lot of people speculated was a torn achilles. Fortunately, both of them were able to play on but not before some serious, but brief, panicking from yours truly. Speaking of Timme, his free throw shooting has looked so much better since he started being a little more deliberate with his breathing and process at the charity stripe. That’s the byproduct of a lot of hard work over the last few months to address a glaring weakness, and you love to see him be rewarded for it.
  6. As far as I’m concerned, Anton can do no wrong but his free throw shooting in this game was TOUGH to watch. He looked like he had no feel on his stroke and consequently idea what was going to happen on each attempt.
  7. BYU and Gonzaga each got hit with a flagrant-1 due to inadvertent shots to the face, and while both calls were made correctly based on how the rule is written, it was a reminder that the rule stinks. Call those as common fouls and move on. So silly.
  8. Gonzaga let BYU control the first 30 minutes of the game with physicality. Fortunately, that eventually caught up to the Cougars who played the final 12+ minutes of the game in the bonus and in severe foul trouble which the Zags capitalized on with a clutch 20-24 performance from the charity stripe in the second half. The free throw shooting has been a sore subject throughout the season, so it was great to everyone come through during crunch time.
  9. This BYU team lost to Pepperdine on Thursday night and turned around and gave the Zags everything they wanted. I don’t know that there’s any team in the country that plays up or down to their competition more than BYU.
  10. Loved seeing Courtney Vandersloot back in The Kennel to get the recognition she has long deserved. She’s a legend in every sense of the word.