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#9 Gonzaga Bulldogs Open Thread, Game Preview, and How to Watch

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Can Washington end their 5 game losing streak to the Zags?

NCAA Basketball: Texas Southern at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Essentials

Date: Sunday, 12/8/19

Tip-Off Time: 4:00 pm PT

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KOMO 1000

Streaming: Espn.com/watch

Location: Seattle, Washington

Betting line: Washington +2.5

#9 Gonzaga Bulldogs 2019-20 Statistics:

Record: 9-1

Points For per Game: 86.2 ppg (5th)

Points Against per Game: 63.9 ppg (71st)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 113.0 (4th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 90.8 (38th)

Strength of Schedule: 311th overall

Gonzaga Starters:

F- Filip Petrusev, So. 6’11, 235: 15.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 53.2% FG, 14.3% 3pt, 70.2% FT

The Serbian big man has emerged as the Zags’ leading scorer this season and is the heir to their big man throne. He’s shot 50% on midrange jumpers so in addition to being skilled in the paint he has the potential to knock it down if he’s left open on the elbow or in the middle of the zone. One thing to note is that he has done a lot of feasting on smaller opponents. In Gonzaga’s games against Oregon and Michigan he was a combined 10/30 from the field and has shot 65% against everyone else. This will be a good challenge for Isaiah Stewart and likely the most skilled big man the Huskies have seen all season.

F- Killian Tillie, Sr. 6’10, 220: 13.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.4 apg, 50.0% FG, 40.9% 3pt, 66.7% FT

Tillie has struggled with injuries during his career and missed the first 5 games this year coming off a knee procedure. He has still been effective shooting better than 40% from deep at 6’10, although he has been on a bit of a minutes restriction. The battle of Tillie versus McDaniels is intriguing as both are 6’9+ players who prefer to do their work on the perimeter and take jump shots.

G- Corey Kispert, Jr. 6’7, 200: 13.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 49.0% FG, 43.1% 3pt, 73.9% FT

It really stings that UW couldn’t get a commitment from Edmonds native Kispert who is off to a career best start from 3-point range. Kispert was almost exclusively a shooter his first two seasons but has been more willing to drive and has seen his free throw rate nearly double. He started the season showing off more playmaking ability but has just 4 assists in Gonzaga’s past 4 games.

G- Admon Gilder, Sr. 6’4, 200: 10.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.3 apg, 37.1% FG, 31.9% 3pt, 68.8% FT

A grad transfer from Texas A&M, Gilder has been a bit of a disappointment with career low shooting numbers across the board. However he has an absurdly low turnover rate for his usage so at least he hasn’t also been giving the ball away. Gilder is definitely comfortable taking outside shots but he prefers to penetrate and draw fouls when possible. He suffered an injury in the Southern Miss game and has averaged 20 mpg since that time after averaging over 28 mpg before then.

G- Ryan Woolridge, Sr. 6’3, 175: 9.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.1 apg, 49.3% FG, 58.8% 3pt, 51.7% FT

Another grad transfer, this time from North Texas, Woolridge has been solid manning the show for Gonzaga. He has not been looking for his shot at all and is averaging less than 2 attempts from behind the arc per game despite shooting nearly 60% so far this season. Woolridge also suffered an injury in the Southern Miss game and while he has continued to be on the floor it has seemingly hurt his effectiveness. He was averaging 11.7 pts with 1.5 TOs per game before the injury and has averaged 5.8 pts with 2.5 TOs per game since.

Gonzaga Key Bench Players:

F- Drew Timme, Fr. 6’10, 235: 11.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 58.3% FG, 65% FT

Gonzaga beat out Texas for the 4-star big man and he’s been an instant impact center playing behind and alongside Petrusev. In particular he has been a bully on the offensive glass and has the potential to give the Zags plenty of second chance opportunities against the zone. He’s also 4/5 this season hitting jumpers in the elbow to free throw line range so while his range doesn’t extend to the 3-pt line he could still hurt UW outside the paint playing alongside Petrusev.

F- Anton Watson, Fr. 6’8, 220: 7.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 57.1% FG, 16.7% 3pt, 61.1% FT

Watson and McDaniels held a multi-year rivalry for the title of best high school player in Washington over the past few years and Watson won it at least from a team perspective. He’s had a solid start for Gonzaga and started during Killian Tillie’s absence but injured his ankle in the infamous Southern Miss game and has been in a walking boot. It sounds unlikely that he’ll be available for this game but we’ll see prior to game time.

G- Joel Ayayi, So. 6’5, 180: 9.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, 52.1% FG, 42.1% 3pt, 53.8% FT

The Zags’ 6th man was a seeming afterthought coming over from France as 247 didn’t even have a profile set up for him. He played less than 10% of the teams’ minutes last year but had very good efficiency numbers mainly going against midmajor backups during blowouts. This year he’s only become more efficient despite essentially playing starters’ minutes split between the 1 and 2 spots. He leads the team in assist rate and steals and is 2nd in made 3-pointers. With his size and skill set from the guard spot he’d be perfect for the UW zone but instead will be a major determinant in whether Gonzaga can beat it.

2019-20 Gonzaga Shot Chart

Synergy Sports

Washington has to be hoping that Gonzaga doesn’t start experiencing some regression to the mean on their corner 3’s because there’s no way they end the year shooting 15% on that shot. The Huskies have been one of the best teams in the country at guarding the paint so it will be interesting to see whether Isaiah Stewart can contain Filip Petrusev and the rest of the Gonzaga bigs. That right wing spot where the Zags are making 55.6% of their 3’s is generally Quade Green’s side and it’s where opponents are also having the most success. Quade will need to play the game of his life trying to contest shots by the 6’7 Corey Kispert and 6’10 Killian Tillie in that spot.

The Outlook

It’s kind of startling to see how similar these two teams are right now. Both teams lost 4 starters from conference winning NCAA tournament squads a season ago. Both teams are led in points, rebounds, and blocked shots by their starting centers (Isaiah Stewart and Filip Petrusev). Both teams feature a 6’9+ hybrid that does most of their damage on the perimeter (Jaden McDaniels and Killian Tillie). Both teams feature a transfer as their starting PG (Quade Green and Ryan Woolridge). And both teams rank in the top-10 in average height.

Of course the similarities have to end somewhere. While each team is young and tall they have vastly different strengths. This is still a brutally efficient offense for Gonzaga. They rank exactly 27th nationally in both 3-pt% and 2-pt%. However they prefer to take the ball to the hoop whenever possible given the size advantage they enjoy over most teams. Filip Petrusev has struggled this season when faced with an opponent as strong as he is and Gonzaga’s 2 worst games when you factor in opponent both came when he had just 3 made field goals. The battle of Isaiah Stewart vs. Filip Petrusev should be the showcase and if one of them gets the other in foul trouble it will go a long way towards deciding the game.

The Zags rank top-40 nationally in both turnover % and offensive rebound % as well so they usually wind up with more possessions than the opponent that they can hand over to their host of offensive skill talent. The rebounding figures to be a major factor against UW’s zone which is better than in past seasons of securing defensive rebounds but which is still a weakness. Every opponent UW has faced this season has ended up with double digit turnovers against their active defense and considering Gonzaga’s strength isn’t their guard play I would think the Huskies can still force them into plenty of turns.

On the other end Gonzaga’s defense is a bit of a concern as they’ve allowed opponents to find open looks on the perimeter and are 231st in 3-pt defense. Washington really needs to see the Quade Green that broke out on Wednesday in this one. If he and/or anyone else can knock down a couple of early 3-pointers it will hopefully soften up the middle enough to start attacking inside. It will also be intriguing to see if Gonzaga decides that Petrusev is up to guarding Isaiah Stewart one v. one or if they start out by doubling him like everyone else has. My guess is he can’t and the Huskies are hoping they decide to try.

Another interesting similarity between the teams is that both rank in the top-25 in shortest possessions on offense and the top-25 in longest possessions on defense. Neither team wants to spend a ton of time diagnosing the opposing defense when they have the ball but both defenses have been adept at forcing the other team to do just that. Whichever team is able to handle that best by either finding easy transition baskets or not forcing quick, poor shots will likely have an edge.

The last time Washington beat a team that finished in the top-25 at KenPom at home was the last game of the regular season in 2015 when they defeated a Utah squad which ended up a #5 seed and made the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual national champion Duke. They’re 0-4 in the intervening time although only one of those games occurred on Coach Hopkins’ watch. That was the Gonzaga game 2 years ago which ended in a 27 point beatdown coming immediately off the heels of an upset road win over #2 Kansas.

It’s safe to say this is the biggest home game the Huskies have had since that game and hopefully they’ll be better prepared mentally than they were for that game. Washington has had a tendency recently to open playing man-to-man and consequently end up with slow starts. That needs to change on Sunday. Quade Green will be picked on as a mismatch against any Gonzaga player with their size and it’s key that Washington starts off well. You know that Zags fans have been trying to buy every available ticket on the secondary market and if UW gets down double digits early then they’ll try to make it feel like a road game.

I want to believe that the energy in Hec-Ed turns into a monstrous force which helps power the Huskies to a victory in the most evenly matched edition of the rivalry since the peak of the Lorenzo Romar era. But I still have concerns that this Husky team makes too many mistakes and that the Zags will remain composed enough to capitalize. Washington keeps it within reach until the final 5 minutes but Gonzaga’s able to pull away late.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 66, Gonzaga Bulldogs- 73

*****

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