Thoughts From Gonzaga vs. Washington State


After Gonzaga’s 81-66 win over the Washington State Cougars on Wednesday night, a lot of people focused their attention on all of the things that went wrong in the matchup. Though there were a number of problems that the Zags had throughout the game, I’d like to take a moment to redirect the attention toward a more positive aspect of the Bulldogs’ performance.

Dec 10, 2014; Spokane, WA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs center Przemek Karnowski (24) shoots against Washington State Cougars forward Josh Hawkinson during the second half at Spokane Arena. Bulldogs won 81-66. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve read a couple of articles that detailed Gonzaga’s lack of defensive intensity, higher number of turnovers, and poor performances from Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. Now, all of this negativity is 100% accurate. The incredible defense that the Zags have displayed so far this year was absent against the Cougars, there seemed to be more turnovers than usual, and the duo of Pangos and Bell Jr. combined for a measly (and unexpected) two points.

But Wednesday night, I walked out of the Spokane Area with a smile on my face.

For the first time in a long time (ever?), I feel comfortable in saying that we aren’t too heavily reliable on our senior guards. And I believe that this is one of the many things that makes this year’s team so special.

I always felt like before, if Gary or Kevin was having an off day, the rest of the team suffered with them. These two are often the ones who set the tempo of a game, and yet even without their star dynamic duo taking over the reigns, the Zags managed to pull off a win by a considerable margin.

This is all thanks to the performances from Kyle Wiltjer, Byron Wesley, and Przemek Karnowski. These three guys alone combined for 63 points: Wesley had 20, Wiltjer had 21, and Karnowski had 22. Przemek, in particular, was an absolute monster – he grabbed eight rebounds and gave Washington State some serious issues in the paint. His presence on the court was magnificent – the Cougars had to resort to a double team strategy, hoping to force Przemek into calling a time out or turning the ball over. But the big man consistently managed to find a way to get the ball out to an open Byron Wesley for an easy layup.

And this is what’s so great about the 2014-15 Gonzaga squad. Kevin and Gary are human – there are going to be nights where it just isn’t there. These kinds of games happen every year – the only difference is, the Zags now have the supporting cast to keep them afloat. If our star guards don’t show up one night, there’s going to be someone else who does. This team is so balanced and they work so well together; that’s what’s going to make the Bulldogs so dangerous. Everyone on this team is a contributor in one way or another, and each player is capable of stepping into the spotlight and leading his team to a win.

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I think that the turnovers will start to fix themselves as the season goes on. I don’t have much to say on the lack of defense, except that this is only one game. Every other game this year, Gonzaga’s defensive prowess has been tremendous. My bet is that it will stay strong (though there will be bumps along the way).

Gonzaga finishes its Pac-12 slate on Saturday night against the UCLA Bruins in Westwood, CA. Expect a strong matchup against a talented team in Pauley Pavilion.