The Gonzaga Bulldogs continued to plow over the competition during the holiday season with a whopping [ ] victory over the North Alabama Lions. Despite the arrival of winter weather and the neighboring Washington State Huskies playing a bowl game in the same time slot, the McCarthey Athletic Center hosted a full crowd that was treated to another excellent performance from its top-ranked basketball team.
All five Gonzaga starters reached double figure scoring, with Zach Norvell’s 20 points leading the way. Brandon Clarke (16 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks) and Rui Hachimura (14 points) continued their strong partnership inside. Josh Perkins (13 points, 4 assists) searched out his shot a little more, and Corey Kispert rounded things out by chipping in 10 points. Filip Petrusev (7 points) and Jeremy Jones (4 points) continued their strong play off the bench.
The size and talent disparity between the two squads was apparent from the opening tip, and the overmatched Lions quickly fell victim to Gonzaga’s casual dominance. The Zags were balanced and unselfish at the offensive end, moving the ball with confidence and ease to consistently create the best possible shot. At the opposite end of the floor, the defensive rehabilitation continued as Gonzaga’s emphasis on shoring up its rotations and communication resulted in North Alabama only converting 5 of its 27 shot attempts in the first half.
Gonzaga’s defensive effort was so good for most of the first half that it was fair to wonder if the Lions would even reach double digits by the break. Alas, a few moments of madness allowed for all the lightbulbs on the scoreboard to shine in the opening 20 minutes and meant that the Zags would have to settle for a 48-14 lead at the midway point of the game.
The sheen of Gonzaga’s brilliance must have worn off a tiny bit for the Lions in the second half, as they appeared much more aggressive and comfortable on the floor after the break. There’s a lot to admire about a team that doesn’t give in to the inevitable, and North Alabama’s refusal to completely capitulate reflects well on the character of their program. But competitive character only gets you so far, and against a Gonzaga squad looking to sharpen itself for much bigger games ahead, it got the Lions a [ ] loss that looked like it was going to be much worse in the game’s first 15 minutes.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Gonzaga. The long distance shooting wasn’t dialed in, nine turnovers against an overmatched team that doesn’t play pressure defense isn’t a great look, and only 14 assists to 29 made shots isn’t the absolute best ratio for an efficient offense. Those are nitpicky criticisms in a 40-point win, to be sure, but if the goal is a championship then nitpicking is required.
The Zags may not be getting the best competitive challenge in the world, but they are still using this stretch of the schedule to improve. That much is evident from what we’ve seen over the last two games. When the business end of the season arrives, they should be better for it.