#24 Gonzaga (11-4, 2-0) couldn’t have started off the opening week of conference play any better and did it fashionably with the new threads against San Diego (10-7, 0-2). Ben Gregg has had a strong start to 2024, dropping 22 points on 8-15 FG and 2-6 3PT, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists, 1 block off the bench against the Toreros. These type of contributions for the 2nd unit put this team in such a better spot to win games in March Madness. Mark Few needs to get the most out of the limited Gonzaga rotation as possible. Love the fact that Jun Seok Yeo saw more minutes over the past week, let’s make that a trend. Fans know he can score the ball all-around. The more defensive reps for him, the better.
Another trend I would like to continue upward is the way this team as a whole has improved their three-point shooting in the new year (18-42 3PT for 42.8% against Pepperdine and San Diego). Ryan Nembhard (18 points, on 6-10 FG and 4-5 3PT, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals against San Diego) especially who has turned a corner after seemingly not making any looks out on the perimeter for the entire month of December. The lead guard has gone 6-8 3PT (75.0%) over the last two games. With that facet of his game returning to normal it seems, Nembhard is becoming more of the player as a whole that fans expected to see when he decided to make the move to Spokane.
Graham Ike (19 points on 8-12 FG, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks against the Toreros) has made the earliest and best case for West Coast Conference Player of the Year with his toughness in the low post. No one can seem to stop him when he gets that comfortable positioning and uses his dominant left hand hook. He’s averaging 19.5 PPG on an outstanding 72.7 FG%, 7.5 RPG, and 2.0 BPG through the first two games in conference play. After the first week of play, it’s between him and Jonathan Mogbo of USF in my opinion.
This was the third time this season that Gonzaga has put up 100+ points. It’s worth a mention that this game could have been closer early on if Wayne McKinney III (late scratch from the lineup) was suited up, he makes that much of a difference for San Diego.
The Zags did a fantastic job forcing San Diego to make the mistakes with their 19 turnovers compared to a mere 9 for the Zags. Gonzaga’s suffocating defense was getting in the passing lanes extremely well, totaling 14 team steals. The Zags used their quick, up-and-down playing style to their advantage and put in 27 points off turnovers to roll over the Toreros.
Gonzaga’s sharing of the rock was some of the best I’ve seen, the ball movement was at its quickest. The team wasn’t being selfish (which is so fun to watch) and finding the best possible looks almost every possession down. 27 assists against San Diego was the 2nd most the Zags have made all season right behind the 28 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Time for the Zags to hit the road for the first time in conference play now. Gonzaga heads down to the Bay Area to face Santa Clara at the Leavey Center on Thursday at 6:30 PM PT on ESPN.
Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho