Top-ranked Gonzaga men's basketball improved to 4-0 on Saturday, Dec. 19 with a 99-88 win over No. 3 Iowa. The Zags now own two wins against the AP top 10 and three against teams ranked 11th or better. Here are six instant takeaways from Gonzaga's win.
Tempo was the name of the game ... again
Gonzaga's rotation is only about eight players deep, but that doesn't keep the Bulldogs from pushing the pace. The first four minutes of Saturday's game felt like a blur with Gonzaga and Iowa trading high-percentage looks early. GU led 15-14 at the first timeout with the two teams shooting a combined 55 percent from the floor. But only the Zags were able to sustain the up-tempo style for an entire game. When Iowa went more than four minutes without a basket in the first half, Gonzaga extended a one-point lead to 12 and never looked back. GU finished with 18 fast break points and scored over 90 points for the third time this season.
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Jalen Suggs is the real deal
This is not a revelation, but more of a reiteration. Gonzaga's star freshman poured in a career-high 27 points against Iowa, his second 20-plus point performance against a top 10 team. But Suggs does a lot more than score for the Zags, though he did knock down seven 3s on the afternoon. His offensive motor translates to several facets of the game. On Saturday, he again displayed a capability of facilitating with seven rebounds and four assists, anticipating in passing lanes (three steals) and shading Iowa's big as a help defender in the post.
So is Iowa's Luka Garza
Garza is always worth mentioning, especially when a team's game plan is centered around containing him. The Hawkeyes' senior led Iowa with 30 points, the fourth time he's finished with at least 30 points through seven games. Garza was rarely double-teamed in the post, often taking advantage of Drew Timme and Oumar Ballo in one-on-one situations. He really thrived in the second half — pulling down seven of his 10 rebounds — when forwards Timme, Corey Kispert and Anton Watson battled foul trouble, forcing Gonzaga to play small at times. However, it seemed like Gonzaga's defensive emphasis was on the perimeter, where Iowa made just four 3's. Outside of Garza, Joe Weiskamp and Joe Toussaint, who combined to make 27-of-45 shots, Iowa was 8-of-30 shooting.
Gonzaga had a hot 3-point shooting afternoon
Earlier in the week, NCAA.com's Andy Wittry broke down ways that nine March Madness contenders could improve, citing 3-point shooting as Gonzaga's area of improvement. The Bulldogs answered the call on Saturday with their best 3-point shooting performance of the season. The Zags shot better from deep (10-of-16) than they did from inside the arc (9-of-17) in the first half. They finished with 13 makes from the perimeter and showed just how tough an out they can be when they're consistently knocking down shots from 3-point rage.
Zags played big ... until they couldn't
Even with Garza, Iowa tends to struggle when it comes to rebounding on the defensive end. Gonzaga took advantage of that most of the afternoon, winning the battle on the glass 49-35. But foul trouble plagued the Bulldogs as all three starting forwards for the Zags played fewer second-half minutes with Timme and Kispert fouling out. As a result, the Hawkeyes kept things interesting late after the Bulldogs opened up a 20-point lead. Gonzaga's front court depth will be something to watch later in the year, especially when matched up against teams that like to work inside-out.
Is Joel Ayayi the X-factor for Gonzaga?
The redshirt junior has taken a backseat to Jalen Suggs when it comes to scoring this year. But Ayayi is one of the more versatile guards in college basketball and just might be Gonzaga's X-factor. He came into Saturday's game as the Bulldogs' leading rebounder, a title he'll retain after hauling down a game-high and career-best 18 boards. He also dished out six assists and finished with a double-double, scoring 11 points.