Rushed Reactions: #1 Gonzaga 66, #16 South Dakota State 46Posted by RJ Abeytia on March 16th, 2017
Gonzaga was just too much physically and athletically for a South Dakota State team whose fans were very happy just to see their Jackrabbits in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs never got into what one would consider a strong offensive flow, but their defense carried them today and they bracketed the half with spurts that ultimately made the difference.
Three Key Takeaways.
- Gonzaga’s defense may be what saves them. The Bulldogs’ defense simply overwhelmed South Dakota State, holding the Jackrabbits to 31 percent shooting and an Offensive Rating of 65.7. It has to be some comfort to head coach Mark Few that on a day when his offense was largely missing in action, Gonzaga can still dominate the other end of the court well enough to win.
- The Bulldogs’ versatility is a big part of who they are. As much as Nigel Williams-Goss handles the ball, the versatility of Jordan Mathews, Johnathan Williams and Silas Melson is crucial on both ends because the Zags can switch virtually everything that doesn’t involve Przemek Karnowski. Four different guys can bring the ball upcourt and initiate the offense.
- A slow start is not a habit you want to form. Gonzaga had only 19 points through the game’s first 16 minutes and an offensive efficiency at the half of 81.3, well below its season average. It was just one game, but slow starts like that are the stuff upon which upsets are built.
Star of the Game. Jordan Mathews, Gonzaga. The transfer guard didn’t exactly tear it up today in 32 minutes, but he led the Zags in scoring through the meaningful portion of the game, grabbed five rebounds and didn’t turn the ball over. This was an ugly grind-it-out game, and ‘star’ may be a stretch, but Mathews was solid if not spectacular for Gonzaga.
- Mark Few pulled no punches with regard to what won the game for Gonzaga: “We had to really dig deep to show our toughness Our defense carried us as it has a lot this year is something I don’t think people realized.”
- When asked about the #1-#16 match-up, Few was full of praise for South Dakota State and the game itself: “The extremes are scooting closer to the mean year in and year-out every year.”
- Finally, here’s Few on the Zags’ offensive struggles in the first half: “We had bigs missing bunnies; they had guards missing shots. They chose to insult us and not guard us which was a good idea in the first half but not something I’d usually recommend.”
Sights and Sounds. Vivint Smart Home Arena is steep and built for basketball. If the favorites struggle this weekend, it won’t take much for the fans of the other teams assembled in the building to gang up and apply the pressure with plenty of noise.
What’s Next. Gonzaga draws the winner of today’s Northwestern-Vanderbilt on Saturday. Four Zags logged over 30 minutes and Nigel Williams-Goss played 37 himself. Few undoubtedly hoped to play his junior guard less than he did today, but it wasn’t in the cards.