Gonzaga let this one get away from them. There’s no other way to put it. And now Saint Mary’s is in the driver’s seat for the WCC title.
- The Zags got off to a great start which was made all the more impressive by the fact that the energy and atmosphere inside of McKeon Pavilion was frenzied. It was an excellent environment for college basketball, but definitely a tough one for any visiting opponent. The Zags not only handled it well, it seemingly fueled them to reach another level. But, they couldn’t make it last. The Gaels were eventually going to get going, but the Zags had numerous opportunities to put this game away and failed to do it.
- Gonzaga’s much-maligned defense was the catalyst to the strong start. The Gaels had a very difficult time running their offense and struggled to manufacture open shots through their scheme. The first 35 minutes of this game has to be the defensive baseline for Gonzaga moving forward. The defense during the last 5 minutes of regulation and overtime? Not so much.
- Gonzaga’s ability to consistently get into the heart of SMC’s defense with penetration off the bounce created so many quality chances early in the game and put the Gaels on their heels. SMC’s defense toughened up late, but it also felt like Gonzaga lost its attacking mindset towards the latter stages of the game and became too dependent on Timme to make something happen. Timme frequently did, but the offense was obviously much better when it was five guys playing together, not let’s throw the ball into #2 and watch. It’s not like Timme is a black hole down in the post either, he’s shown time and time again throughout his illustrious career that he is a willing and able facilitator.
- For as well as Gonzaga played in the first half, Randy Bennett had to be pleased that the Gaels went into halftime only down by 8. It felt like Gonzaga was about to blow the game open in the last 5-6 minutes of the first half but Saint Mary’s survived the early flurry and set themselves up to regroup in the second half and into overtime. The closing minutes of the first half felt like a missed opportunity
- Sallis deserves his own observation. I loved his aggression at both ends of the floor, and his athleticism really stood out. His physical gifts made it look like he was playing a different games at times. He was a gamechanger and it was really fun to watch.
- It feels like Drew Timme hits a new milestone just about every night. This time around, he passed Jim McPhee to move into second on Gonzaga’s list of all-time scorers. With that one under his belt, Timme is only looking up to one Zag (the Honorable Frank Burgess). What a feeling that must be.
- Aidan Mahaney can really play, and that’s why you can’t let him cook you. Force the ball out of his hands. Anton Watson (of course) was the only Zag who guarded Mahaney late in the game who understood the assignment. Having Watson step up on the switches was the right call, but how is Hunter Sallis not on the floor once Mahaney started heating up? Hickman and Smith were getting wrecked by Mahaney and weren’t able to prevent him from getting to his spots. Mahaney made some difficult shots, sure, but they were continuously allowing him to get to his spot to get them off and once he’s there, there’s no blocking it.
- I really can’t believe that Gonzaga didn’t attack Mahaney on every offensive possession. He was sitting there with 4 fouls for a long time and yet the Zags never went after him.
- Saint Mary’s floor conditions are always atrocious for their Gonzaga home game. That gym oozes condensation because of how poor air circulation is in there and how many people they pack into the building for the Zags. It’s gross.
- Gonzaga dictated play in the first half, which was a bit surprising (but welcome) considering the struggles that better Gonzaga teams had doing just that against the Gaels over the last few years. The Gaels weren’t going to shoot 2-13 from the three-point line in the second half like they did in the first. For as good as Gonzaga was defending, it all come undone in the final 5 minute of regulation and overtime. It’s like we weren’t watching the same time that defended for the first 35 minutes of the game.