The Microwave usually takes a little while to heat up, but look out once he gets warm.
Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell Jr.’s knack for instant offense, particularly in the second half, has prompted some teammates to refer to him as “Microwave.”
Norvell has been prone to sizzling second halves, but he mixed in a strong first half in Saturday’s 101-52 rout over Santa Clara at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman wing had 12 points and five assists in just 12 minutes in the opening half.
Norvell, whose longtime nickname is ‘Snacks’ for his penchant for junk food as a youngster, finished with 14 points and eight assists. His scoring bursts occasionally overshadow the rest of his playmaking ability, which includes setting up teammates. He ranks second on the team with 41 assists (2.7 per game).
“I’ve always taken pride in my passing,” said Norvell, whose previous season high for assists was five. “Everybody thinks I can just score the ball in bunches but I love to win. If the guys are open I’m going to give them the ball, and I’m pretty confident all of these guys are in spots they can make shots.”
Norvell has started the last eight games following Corey Kispert’s sprained ankle against Incarnate Word. Norvell averaged 16.9 points in his first seven starts, but how he arrived at that figure is a tale of two halves.
In the first halves, Norvell produced 4.9 points on 29-percent shooting, including 15 percent on 3-pointers. The second halves were a different story: 12.0 points, 66 percent from the field and 55 percent on treys.
Add in Norvell’s 17-point performance off the bench against Incarnate Word and his halves are even more lopsided: 4.6 points in the first and 12.3 in the second.
“Just sticking with it, staying confident and not really worrying about the first half or second half,” Norvell shrugged. “It would be great if I could put them both together but probably here pretty soon we’ll get that.”
Norvell is well aware of his first-half, second-half stat discrepancy. He hears about it from teammates and on social media platforms.
“It’s crazy, I hear about it a lot actually,” the Chicago native said. “Somebody actually made a joke, I don’t know who it was, and it was like, ‘I don’t have to guard him, just act like it’s the first half.’
“It’s funny, I don’t let it get to me that much. I just take my shots and stay aggressive.”
Norvell could be seen running sprints and doing defensive slide drills on the court just before the second half against Santa Clara. He said he was trying to loosen up after sitting for the last few minutes of the first half and during intermission.
“The first half, I think I can probably get a little more prepared for that,” he said, “just getting up and down a little faster.”
Norvell is third on the team at 13.2 points in 23.8 minutes per game. He’s made 49 percent of his shots, 35 percent beyond the arc and 82 percent at the free-throw line.
In the last five games, Norvell is the team’s top scorer at 15 points per contest. He’s the Zags’ leading scorer in nine home games (13.7) and two road games (21.5) but ranks sixth in four neutral-site games (8.0).