Busting Brackets

Gonzaga Bulldogs: Five Takeaways from Gonzaga win over Tennessee


The Gonzaga Bulldogs defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 86-79 in the 2015 Battle in Seattle.

Gonzaga grabbed a big early lead, leading 49-33 at halftime. It looked like the game was in the bag, but fatigue and cold second half shooting allowed the Vols to get back into the game.

Tennessee was even able to take the lead with 9:43 left in the game. Ultimately the Zags were able to bring the game back into their control and get a win right before conference play starts.

Five Takeaways

1. Domantas Sabonis is NBA ready

Sabonis had a definite height advantage against the Vols, so his numbers, although great, might not be an accurate representation of his NBA readiness.  It’s still worth taking a look at his stat line since he had a career night.  He finished with 36 points, 16 rebounds, and a block.

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I base my claim that Sabonis is NBA ready on his smart play.  First off, he played extremely smart defense with four fouls in the last few minutes of the game.  He knew that his offense was needed to help the team win the game, so he played smart defense and avoided picking up a fifth foul.

Sabonis also makes good decisions.  He knows when to pass out of double teams and when to attack the basket.  He has improved on not hesitating when trying to decide what to do.  He also has the ability to get his teammates and the crowd back into the game.  The video below is a great example of this.


2. Bryan Alberts Should Continue to Start!

Alberts did not exactly light up the stat sheet. He only had two points on 1-4 shooting along with two rebounds. More importantly, he did not have any turnovers.

He moved the ball well allowed the offense to flow. Silas Melson had three points on 1-4 shooting with no turnovers. I think that Melson may need a bit more time to find his groove off the bench.

If he can do that, then maybe he will move to the starting lineup. Until then, Alberts needs to start.

3. Free throws and limiting turnovers are key to Gonzaga’s success

In this game, Gonzaga only had six turnovers. This is a huge improvement from previous games. The Zags are continuing to find their identity and limiting turnovers helps with this.

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Gonzaga shot 24-33 (72.7%) from the line tonight. Those points made a huge difference, especially when compared to Tennessee’s 11-16 (68.8%) free throw shooting night.

Making more than double the amount of free throws than the other team is a recipe for success. When the Zags are aggressive on offense they can really take their opponents out of the game.

When playing with a lead Gonzaga needs to try to extend that lead rather than sit back and coast.

4. Tennessee got back into the game due to hot shooting and Gonzaga’s poor perimeter defense.

For the majority of the season, Gonzaga’s perimeter defense has been much better than past seasons. Tonight they slipped a bit.

Tennessee was 10-21 (47.6%) from three-point range and it kept them in the game. Guards Kevin Punter and Devon Baulkman had 23 and 17 points respectively. Both players hit two threes and were important factors to Tennessee’s attempted comeback.

5. Eric McClellan mixes up the offense.

McClellan had 13 points in this game and he was able to give the Gonzaga offense some variety.

Going to a posted up Wiltjer or Sabonis on the low block worked pretty much all night for Gonzaga, but when double teaming became too much for the bigs to handle or fatigue set in, McClellan could drive to the hoop and get a quick bucket to get the Tennessee defense to shift their defensive focus ever so slightly.

Next: North Carolina Steamrolls UCLA, Three Takeaways From the Game

Gonzaga will no move on to conference play as the are set to host Pepperdine on Monday, December 21 at 6:00 pm local time.  The game can be seen on ESPN2.