Gonzaga Bulldogs

Gonzaga Bulldogs: Zags 360 – A preventable loss

Gonzaga Bulldogs
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Malachi Smith (photo by Ed Stein).

The Gonzaga Bulldogs traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for a re-match of the 2021 NCAA Championship game between the Bulldogs and the Baylor Bears.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs went to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to once again face the Baylor Bears. This time although the outcome was the same, the game was very different.

Coach Few used Nolan Hickman as his point guard for the bulk of the game although a lot of the facilitating went through the big guy Drew Timme. That is something to keep in mind. The second to keep in mind is the Baylor defense. When it came down to it the defense by the Bears won the game.

Gonzaga Bulldogs (63) vs. Baylor Bears (64)

I was very upset that the Bulldogs lost this game. The loss was preventable and had to be something that Coach Few has to take a deep look at. The first and foremost is the point guard position. Because of its importance, it will be discussed after we talk about this game.

The star of this game for the Gonzaga Bulldogs has to be Anton Watson. The Quiet Enforcer did some loud enforcing on the court this game. Watson pulled down his career-high 13 rebounds, six of which were offensive. He had 13 points, three steals, and one block. All in a day’s work. As he said in the postgame presser, “it was a very physical game.” It was fast and it was physical and the refs to their advantage, let them play through it.

As I said, the Baylor defense was stifling, they held Drew Timme to two points on two free throws in the 20-minute first half. Timme ended the night with nine points, five rebounds – zero offensive, one assist, and two blocks. This is not the Gonzaga National Player of the Year and unfortunately, Gonzaga goes as Timme goes.

Malachi Smith had 16 points, two rebounds, and two steals and looked right at home helping his team fight through the Baylor defense. Julian Strawther played with his usual athleticism and was all over the court, contributing 10 points and 10 rebounds, four of them offensive. The Bulldogs pulled down 16 offensive rebounds in this game, which was great, for a total of 47 rebounds in all.

This was a hard-fought game that I believe the Gonzaga Bulldogs should have won. The Bulldogs had 18 turnovers and 18 personal fouls. The Bears had 16 personal fouls…the Bulldogs missed eight free throws. Had they made even two more of those they would have had the one-point victory.

Keyonte George was the high scorer for Baylor with 18 points including three of eight from beyond the arc. Adam Flagler‘s two made threes at the end, sealed the game for Baylor.

What’s next for the Gonzaga Bulldogs?

The Gonzaga Bulldogs return home to face the Kent State Golden Flashes. I can tell you now that Kent State has a solid backcourt, and if the Bulldogs don’t do something, I’m afraid they could be facing another loss. Why do I say that? Because the backcourt is most important. It consists of that all-important floor general, the point guard.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs’ backcourt

In his post-game presser after the Baylor game, the coach raved at how much progress Hunter Sallis made in the offseason. Why then did he only play Sallis for seven minutes during a crucial game where his athleticism was much needed? I nicknamed Nolan Hickman my NBA All-Star because I believe that is what he will be. Not who he is today. Hickman is a sophomore playing for the previous number-one team in the country. On that court for 34 minutes, with only six minutes to catch his breath, was a young man who is not a point guard. Not today.

Coach Few’s use of Nolan Hickman didn’t work for Hickman or the team. How can a point guard play for 34 minutes and not get a point? Hickman had two rebounds, eight assists, and one steal but he never quit trying.

If in fact, Few wants Hickman and Sallis to be his point guards, I think he needs to put in more time with them, or the Gonzaga Bulldogs will find it a hard road to the NCAA this season.

Until next week, stay safe.

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