The race is on to get home before the Super Bowl kicks off, so we'll get right to my day-after post following Gonzaga’s 65-63 win over
The Toreros did three things extremely well. 1). They seemed to be the more energetic team. 2). They seemed to be the more physical team. And Nos. 1 and 2 were reflected in 3). USD’s dominance of the offensive rebounding in the second half. Combined, those three things made this one a nailbiter after it appeared GU would open up a double-figures lead with 13 minutes remaining.
—Gonzaga had some issues with its ball-screen defense, an area that had been fairly solid in recent games. Chris Anderson drove-and-dished his way to 11 assists and Johnny Dee found workable space coming off ball screens. Those two guards combined for 30 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. They also had seven turnovers.
Both guards snagged key offensive rebounds (six, in fact) throughout the second half.
“It was pretty physical in there,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said. “They were hustling and their guards got in there and took some away from our guards. It was pretty darn physical.”
“Very physical,” David Stockton said.
“A couple of times (USD guards) got their own rebound on a missed shot, which happened to me a couple times,” said Kevin Pangos, who had five boards. “We were contesting shots and didn’t really think to box out. We have to do that next time. The guards can’t let that happen.”
—Gonzaga also had some issues offensively. After a hot start fueled by Elias Harris’ draining four straight shots, the Zags had a couple of lengthy scoring droughts. They had a 5:30 dry spell in the first half. When USD made its second-half push, GU scored two points over a six-minute span.
Gonzaga finished 25 of 57 (43.9 percent) and had several wild shot attempts that never threatened the basket.
“Defensively they were just very physical, which we haven’t seen in a while,”
Pangos came up with a unique term to describe GU’s offensive struggles.
“We were just scattery, all over the place and we didn’t take what they were giving us,” he said. “I don’t think we were patient enough.
“We really didn’t get into a rhythm. Defensively we didn’t execute as well, offensively the same thing, and the two are tied together. When you’re not as good on defense, you don’t get as many easy baskets in transition.”
—A bit overshadowed by GU having to go to the final horn to hold off
Pangos had a nice stretch late in the first half when GU opened up a 36-27 lead. He scored all eight of his points with a pair of 3s and a layup in roughly 90 seconds. He was 0 of 5 in the second half, all on 2-pointers as USD successfully chased him off the 3-point line.
—The closeness of the outcome was further evidence of something mentioned here before. Gonzaga has perhaps its deepest team and maybe its best team, but it isn’t so talent-rich that it can simply overwhelm opponents. It has to be dialed up effort-wise and dialed in to game-plan particulars to operate at its highest level.
“We’re not that type of team,” Pangos said. “We have to play hard every game. We know we can’t relax. I don’t know if that was the case tonight, if maybe we relaxed, but I’ll give them credit. They’re a solid team.”
STATS OF NOTE
—For one of the few times this season, Gonzaga didn’t have a sizable edge in points in the paint. Both teams had 34 lane points.
—Kyle Dranginis’ lone field goal came at key time, a runner that evened the score at 57 with 6:20 left.
—USD’s Jito Kok swatted four shots.
—Starters Harris, Olynyk, Pangos and
Harris: “The main thing that went wrong was the rebounding. We did a good job of defending them, they missed a lot of first attempts and then they got the rebounds. If we just rebounded better, they wouldn’t have had been that many chances.”
Few, on reaching the mid-point of the WCC season 8-0: “It’s a great effort. This league is vastly improved. To get through it unscathed is an accomplishment but we have no time to dwell on it. We have to start battling again in a couple of days.”
Grier: “At the end of the day, (Mark) has what he has and there’s a tradition of winning. Those guys don’t get rattled. They’ve won a lot of close games and they’ve been tested.”
Few: “They played with great belief and they played really hard. They did a great job of flipping the rebounding in the second half. We were plus-5 at half and they ended up plus-6. I think we guarded them initially down the stretch and they kept getting offensive rebounds. They defended with some toughness and passion and it wasn’t easy to get baskets.”
Grier, on limiting Olynyk and Harris to 33 points on 12-of-26 shooting: “We’re not going to shut them down, they’re both so good, but I thought we defended fairly well. It would have been nice to make one more play at the end. We had a bad possession with about a minute to go, but we kept fighting.”