- Gonzaga came out of the gates hot. The ball movement was crisp, the defense forced the Dons into a flurry of turnovers, and things nearly got out of hand very early. It was certainly an encouraging start.
- The centerpiece of the Zags’ hot start was none other than All-WCC honorable mention Anton Watson. He had 13 of the team’s first 25 points and did his usual thing on defense. That continued through the night as he finished with a team high 20 points and threw in two huge blocks in the second half.
- Despite the slow start, San Francisco did what they usually do against the Zags and made it a game. Their three-based gameplan began to flow as the first half went on, and they did a great job of not showing fatigue despite the 2OT game the night before.
- A big part of the Dons’ gameplan on defense was shutting down the paint, and this was particularly reflected in Drew Timme’s stat line. He would eventually get his as the game went on, but his impact, especially in the first half, was limited. He still finished with a 17-8-5 line, but it never really felt like he was the focal point on offense.
- Speaking of offense, Khalil Shabazz is good at it. The man played 38 of 40 minutes after suiting up for 48 minutes of action against Santa Clara, and still put on a show, scoring 26 and willing his team back into the game in the first half. He will be missed in this league.
- USF’s gameplan of leaving Ben Gregg open beyond the arc was, in retrospect, probably not the best idea. Gregg finished the game 4-6 from deep, with the last one kicking off the run that sealed things for the Zags.
- Gonzaga took twenty more free throws than the Dons, which is encouraging in its own right. They only shot 73% (19-26), but that can be forgiven when the attempts discrepancy is that large. Timme’s free throw shooting has particularly improved of late; he went 7-9 last night.
- It looked like the Zags were going to run away around the midway point of the second. Blocks from Watson and Timme and buckets from Malachi Smith and Rasir Bolton electrified the Orleans Arena and spurred a mini 5-0 run, but USF did USF things and stayed in it for a little while longer.
- The Dons began to show their weary legs in the final five or so minutes of the game, and the Zags did what they had to do and slammed the door shut immediately. A 9-2 run pushed the lead to double figures and they never looked back. Considering how pesky USF can be in these matchups, it was nice to see Gonzaga put them away without leaving doubt.
- The Zags will continue their ludicrous streak of WCC title game appearances tonight, and of course it will be the season rubber match against Saint Mary’s. Even though both teams are tournament locks, there is still a lot on the line tonight for the two long-time powers in this league. Go Zags.
10 Observations from Gonzaga’s win over USF