The Gonzaga Bulldogs got back to business with a 101-71 win over the IUPUI Jaguars. The Zags rebounded from a too-close-for-comfort victory over the weekend with a game that was a little more fitting of a team of its quality.
In a move that was surely meant to send a message, Mark Few opted to start the game with Killian Tillie and Johnathan Williams on the bench with Jacob Larsen and Rui Hachimura taking their spots in the starting lineup. The brief benching had its intended effect as they led the way to victory. Tillie led all scorers with a career high 27 points, while Williams notched his 3rd double-double of the season with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
Tillie, who made all 10 of his free throws, attempted nearly half of his season total from the charity stripe in this game alone. It was a good sign of aggression from the second year forward who has allowed some contests to pass without attempting to make a bigger impact on the game.
Larsen and Hachimura looked comfortable in their starting debuts, working the high-low game and taking advantage of the size disparity against IUPUI. It was evident from the way Perkins, Melson, and Norvell all hit the deck diving for a loose ball on one possession early in the game that the coaches were not pleased with the team’s effort and intensity against North Dakota on Saturday and expected to see a change.
To that effect, the coaching staff will be generally happy with what they saw against the Jaguars. However, the turnover problem that has plagued the team this season reared its ugly head again in the first half when the Zags gave the ball away 11 times, many of them coming in the first 6-7 minutes of the game. In a trend that has emerged over the season, Gonzaga cleaned up the turnovers in the second half, but the final tally of 17 was still higher than the season average and needs to be a point of emphasis moving forward.
Gonzaga did well to avoid the drama of Saturday and quickly built a healthy cushion that kept the Jaguars at arms length for the rest of the night, there were still some lapses on the defensive end that need to be resolved. The Jaguars were limited to 39% shooting from the field, but Gonzaga’s rotations at times were slow and the Zags struggled to force turnovers.
The Zags are in the dregs of their schedule, and with the rest of the student body gone for Christmas break, the squad clearly struggled to find some juice and generate energy. But good teams don’t rely on external forces to get up for games. In the midst of a low-pressure stretch of games, this is a good time for the Zags to tighten things up before its time for some more heated conference games.