Gonzaga had a tough battle against St. John’s, but ultimately won the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament by a score of 73-66. There was some questionable officiating, some great battles down low, and some very short shorts.
The Zags were led by Domantas Sabonis who had 14 points on 6-6 shooting, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists. He had some really nice moves down low that make me think that he won’t be at Gonzaga for four years. He is very polished for his age and this is due to his international play in Spain and with the Lithuanian national team.
As many had speculated, freshman guard Silas Melson burned his redshirt. He came in with confidence. He finished with 5 points and a rebound. It seems like he is being eased into the system. In this game he was only on the floor for 11 minutes.
The Zags had five players with double digit scoring including Przemek Karnowski with 10, Byron Wesley with 12, Kevin Pangos with 11, Gary Bell Jr. with 13, and Domantas Sabonis with 14.
St. John’s was led by senior guard, Phil Greene IV who had 20 points and 4 rebounds. Other high scorers include D’Angelo Harrison with 15, and Rysheed Jordan with 18. The Red Storm came in ranked 8th in the country in rebounding, but Gonzaga managed to out rebound them by a narrow margin of 38-36. St. John’s was led on defense by junior forward, Chris Obepka. He had 3 block and gave GU’s big men some trouble down low. He only played for 22 minutes due to foul trouble. He eventually fouled out.
One stat that really jumps out to me is bench scoring. Gonzaga showcased some of their depth by adding 19 points off the bench. St. John’s only had 3 points from non-starters.
Right as we thought that Gonzaga’s free throw woes had been resolved the problem arose again. The Zags only shot 60% from the line. This is coming after shooting 91.4% against Georgia. It is strange to see such poor free throw shooting from both teams as St. John’s shot 60.9%.
The most valuable player in this game was Byron Welsey. He drained some clutch buckets when it mattered and came up with a huge defensive stop when the Zags were only up by 3 with less than a minute left to play. Wesley has shown that he can score and he’s someone who I trust to come up big in pressure situations.
Overall, the tournament was a success for the Zags and Kevin Pangos, Kyle Wiltjer, and Domantas Sabonis made the all tournament team.
Gonzaga will have a few days off and then play SE Louisiana on December 2.