Everything is a work in progress this early in the college basketball season.
It requires sophisticated nit-picking to find concerns with Gonzaga’s offense after posting 120 and 104 points, respectively, in victories over Idaho State and Texas Southern.
The third-ranked Zags have scored 108 paint points while shooting a blazing 67.4 percent on 2-pointers. About the only stat that has been hit or miss: 32.7 percent accuracy beyond the 3-point arc.
The more worrisome side of the ball has been the defense. Points yielded in the rout over Idaho State (79) were somewhat inflated because it was a high-possession game but the Zags still had plenty to work on.
They still do after dusting Texas Southern 104-67 on Saturday, but they took a step forward defensively. Gonzaga (2-0) kept the Tigers’ mix of penetrators, 3-point shooters and 7-foot-2 center Trayvon Reed largely in check as its lead reached 30 with 12:15 remaining.
“They can present some real challenges with their length and experience,” coach Mark Few said. “We were much more active on the defensive end and just more energetic and scrappy. That’s kind of how we have to be.”
Josh Perkins and Brandon Clarke triggered GU’s offense and they were the cornerstones at the other end. Perkins defended point guard Jalyn Patterson, a driver with deep 3-point shooting range. Clarke guarded Reed, who got loose for a couple of dunks but rarely impacted the game when the score was close.
Patterson tried driving off high-ball screens but repeatedly ran into Clark at the rim. The GU forward swatted six shots. Patterson settled for 10 3-point attempts, several from beyond 25 feet. He made three, the latter two with his team trailing by 26 and 32.
“He’s a handful. As a defender you can’t relax,” Perkins said. “My job was to make things hard. My guys were there for me in the gaps. I feel like we cut everything off so that (the 3-pointer) was the only thing he had to go to, and he still made a couple of those.”
Few was pleased to see improved energy and rim protection after Idaho State came up with 42 points in the paint and shot 45.7 percent from the field.
“We had a game plan of not letting them throw over the top to the big guy because that’s how he’s going to get lot of his buckets, trying to take away 3s and knowing they were going to isolate a lot,” said senior guard Geno Crandall, who has four steals in two games. “We showed a lot of toughness getting on the floor for loose balls and taking charges. Everybody went out and played really hard, that was probably the biggest difference.”
Gonzaga hasn’t played a minute of zone defense, even with a few players encountering foul trouble in both games.
Keeping trainers busy
Crandall left the game in the second half after inadvertently bumping heads with Texas Southern’s Derrick Bruce. The collision left Crandall with a cut and swelling over his right eye.
“That’s exactly what I said when I was getting stitched up,” Crandall said. “Man I feel like a boxer, working on my eye.”
Seconds later Clarke followed Crandall to the training room. Clarke had a cut near the base of his thumb that left blood on his uniform.
Both players returned to action. Freshman forward Filip Petrusev had a bandage on his forehead from a cut against Idaho State that required three stitches.
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