The Maui Invitational was filled with NCAA heavyweights.
Based on three games there, the Gonzaga men’s basketball team seems like a top contender.
In the latest Zags Basketball Insiders Podcast, Spokesman-Review reporter Jim Meehan and TV analyst and former Gonzaga center Richard Fox break down the competitive loss to Purdue, talk about Anton Watson’s huge game in a win over UCLA, and discuss the team’s early struggles (3-point shooting and turnovers) and strengths (rebounding and defense).
Catch the episode here. It’s also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.
A few highlights (edited for brevity):
Fox, on the Purdue loss: “It was still a game with 5, 6 minutes left. It wasn’t as if it was out of reach for Gonzaga … but this is obviously a team that’s struggled coming out of the gate shooting the 3-point shot. You look across the stat sheet, other than the shooting, (it was) pretty even between both teams and that’s a really good Purdue team. Gonzaga did a nice job taking care of the ball and I just thought it came down to shot quality. I thought too many 3-point shots … In the second half, despite struggling to shoot the ball well, (the Zags) shot 57% inside the arc, so they were having success attacking the rim.”
Meehan, on Anton Watson’s dominance against UCLA: “We’ve seen Anton do special things for four years. A lot of times, it’s at the defensive end, guarding, blocking a shot, (making) a clever pass or just being so solid. This was one of the first times I’ve seen him just take over a game at the offensive end. He was so good he got credit for one that he didn’t even touch. He was in the neighborhood when a Syracuse kid tipped it in accidentally, and that shows his influence on that game. He was everywhere, even when he wasn’t scoring.”
Fox, on Gonzaga’s strengths in Honolulu: “That’s really a theme of the week, quite frankly: Gonzaga’s toughness defensively and then rebounding the ball. If the season ended today, I think it would be the first (Gonzaga) team in a long time that we would look at and say the identity was in those two categories.”
Meehan, on GU turnovers: “Turnovers have been an issue. Instead of watching the game at times, I watched Mark Few’s reactions to the turnovers on the sideline. He had the deep frowns, he had the hands to the heavens, he was bent over, hunched over like on his last breath. What he saw on the floor was driving him crazy. They want to play fast, they’re gonna turn it over, but a lot of those weren’t fast. A lot of them were in half court and and just maybe trying to do too much.”
Fox, on turnovers and shooting: “I’m not concerned about the turnovers but the shooting is remarkable. I read somewhere Gonzaga is around 28% from the 3-point line. That’d be the worst percentage to start a season since 1997. Talk about missing a guy who’s never played for Gonzaga in (Steele) Venters. I just would love to know what that number would be with him on the floor.”