Friday, November 28, 2008

Zags Coast to Old Spice Finals

If only all performances could be as decisive as this one. After struggling against Oklahoma St. last night, Gonzaga dominated all facets of the game in the 81-59 victory over Maryland. To give Maryland credit, the Terps were able to hang around for the first 15 minutes or so, but the Zags ended the first half with a big run and never looked back. Leading the way for GU was the dynamic Josh Heytvelt. In his finest performance since his sophomore year, Heytvelt scored 22 points on 9/10 shooting, and grabbed 9 rebounds. What made his performance so impressive was the way Josh scored from every area on the court. Josh scored at will in the post, and was able to extend his game to beyond the 3 point line.

Along with Heytvelt, what other positives can GU fans take from this game:

  • Austin Daye is everything he was hyped to be, and possibly even more. Daye was terrific tonight, as he used his length to dominate on both ends of the court. Austin was able to score in a variety of ways, including a couple of beautiful post moves that demonstrate some of the added strength he has. However, I came away thrilled by his impact on the defensive end. It is became a game-by-game occurrence to see Austin steal or tip one inbound pass when he is guarding the inbounder. Despite being only 200 pounds, Austin has also been dominant on the glass against all opponents. Tonight, he grabbed 10 rebounds to go along with his 17 points.
Great quote from Austin on his performance (Jim Meehan story): Daye said the Zags “weren’t really on the attack (against Oklahoma State). We took a lot of 3s. I think I took five and that’s probably the most I should ever take. I just felt like I should attack more and see what I could do inside and Josh did a great job in there.”
  • The depth of this team continues to make a huge impact. Against Oklahoma St., it was the impact of Ira Brown that sparked the team to victory. Today, it was the terrfic play of Meech and Rob Sacre that helped the Zags. Meech scored 5 points and has 2 assists in his 15 minutes. Meech put his incredible athleticism on display when he scored a circus put back off a Gonzaga miss. Equally impressive was the contribution of Rob Sacre. Nobody was sure that Rob would even play in the Old Spice Classic, but tonight he demonstrated his great strength and power with 5 points and 4 rebounds in 18 minutes. The depth that he and Ira provide in the frontcourt is vital for this teams success. Both have shown that they can contribute at a high level, and with the backcourt weapons this team has, it is difficult to find any glaring weaknesses.
While this is certainly a case of me nitpicking, there are some areas that this team needs to improve on:

  • Sadly, the play of Steven Gray is becoming a common area of critique on TKR. Against Maryland, Steven continued to struggle with his outside shooting, as he shot 0-3 from beyond the arc. For this team to compete for a Final 4 and National Championship, Steven must re-discover his rhythm from last season. I was encouraged to see him finish well around the hoop, and it looked like he was playing with more emotion, but this team needs Steven to convert the numerous open looks he will get.
  • I hate to look at the boxscore and see 12 assists vs. 15 turnovers. I understand that it is early in the season, and the team is still trying to lose the rust, but there is no excuse to have more turnovers then assists. With all the offensive weapons on the team, there is no reason for any player to force action or play selfish. This can be one of the top offensive teams in the country as long as they continue to score within the offense. Every player will get open looks within the flow of the offense, so there is no need to force passes. It comes down to taking care of the ball and not making lackadaisical decisions.
The reality is that this team is playing some of the top basketball in the country. In the past two days, Gonzaga has defeated two upper-half teams in both the Big 12 and ACC. However, the real test will come on Sunday when GU takes on Tennessee for the first of two meetings this season. Tennessee was the preseason pick to win the SEC, and they looked terrific against Georgetown earlier today. The Zags have a terrific opportunity to make a huge statement on their quest for a 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More Meech!