click to enlarge
Gonzaga has always been known for his attacking execution and efficiency. Under Mark Few, the team has never had a season outside of the top 50 for offensive efficiency. For the past four seasons, including this one, they’ve held the top spots nationwide in that category. They were in the top five six times and first place overall three times. The point is, Zag fans are used to the team scoring the ball often and with ease.
However, they’re not used to what the Zags have done in the last three games. Gonzaga’s offense is running wild.
The Zags opened the league game with 117 points against Pepperdine. That was at home against what was probably the worst team in the World Cup. Impressive, but not entirely unexpected. Pepperdine plays fast but not well, and Gonzaga plays fast and well. A perfect storm to score over 100 points.
Then on Thursday, the Zags dropped 110 against BYU. Back home, but BYU is arguably the best team in WCC alongside Gonzaga. The Cougars have beaten Gonzaga before in Spokane, and they did it in years when Gonzaga was as senior as they are now. Not this time.
A day and a half later and a plane ride from Santa Clara, in the Zags’ first real road game of the season, they did it again. This time he scored 115 points in a Broncos loss. For the first time in program history, the Zags surpassed 100 points in three straight games.
The Zags’ high-octane offense was fueled in part by the team’s willingness to share the ball. In the last three games, they have 80 assists from 132 baskets made. That’s an assist for more than 60 percent of the team’s buckets.
Point guard Andrew Nembhard was responsible for 26 of those 80 assists, averaging an 8.7 per game. His season average has risen to 5.3 assists per game due to his recent explosion. He spent 12 against BYU, setting a new career high since joining from Florida two seasons ago.
But it wasn’t just Nembhard. Rasir Bolton (2.8 assists per game) has topped his season average in assists in each of the last three games.
All of this splitting of the ball has resulted in some incredibly balanced scoring columns in the box’s final results. Six players hit double digits against Pepperdine, four against BYU, and six hit that mark against Santa Clara. Even more impressively, Drew Timme scored 32 points against Santa Clara, but there were still enough points to give five other players 10-plus points.
The other fuel driving Gonzaga’s offensive fire was speed. The Zags have been a fast team in recent years, emphasizing speed in transitions. For the season, they averaged the fifth most possession per game in the country.
“The coach is always there for us to push the ball and make it a high possession game,” Timme said after the BYU game.
In that one, the Zags played 78 possessions, four more than the season’s average. So it was a game with more possession than they are used to. But it was a crawl compared to the other two league games they played.
According to statistician Ken Pomeroy, the Zags lost 90 possessions against Pepperdine, the most in a non-overtime game in the past 20 years. The Zags did it again on Saturday in Santa Clara. The team did something they had never done since game pace stats were introduced, and then did it again a week later.
Gonzaga was scheduled to play on the road at the Pacific on Thursday, but that game was postponed when the Tigers went on a COVID break last week. With a scheduled departure on Saturday, that left the Zags with the potential for a multi-week layoff. The league intervened and tinkered with the game plans. San Francisco (15-3, 2-1) was scheduled to play Portland on Thursday, but instead that game was postponed and the Dons are now traveling to Spokane. The game will air January 20 at 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.