Colorado State Win Shows Gonzaga Will Live or Die by its Perimeter Game

By Jeff Kelly

Heading into tonight’s game between the No. 15 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Colorado State Rams, there were probably very few people who expected to see an upset. The few people who may have considered putting money on CSU were left awfully disappointed, as Mark Few‘s team dismantled the Rams on its way to a 93-61 victory to improve to 2-0 on the season.

While Kevin Pangos has gotten all of the headlines coming into the season, and deservedly so, the Zags were carried by another dynamic perimeter player in Gary Bell Jr., who was white hot from three-point range in hitting 8-of-13 treys (one off of the Gonzaga single-game record) on his way to 24 points and set the tone for the rest of his team. In fact, if the win over Colorado State proved anything, it’s that this year’s incarnation of the Gonzaga basketball team will likely only go as far as its perimeter offense will carry it.

Obviously, losing a pair of players like Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris is a major blow to overcome, and it has left the Zags extremely depleted on the interior. Sure, they’ve got Przemek Karnowski, a 7-foot-1, 305-pound giant to go alongside the 6-foot-9, 255-pound Sam Dower, and while those two will get more than their share of boards they certainly won’t be the focus of the Bulldog offense. Even tonight, Dower seemed as interested in shooting jumpers as he did working on the interior. Instead, a trio of small, but skilled, starting guards and a transfer from Providence will carry the bulk of the scoring load. Tonight proved just that.

As a team, the Zags shot lights out from deep, hitting 14 treys as a team, and that number could have been even higher had Few not cleared the bench midway through the second half. Along with Pangos and Bell, David Stockton knocked down most of his limited attempts, and Gerard Coleman, who spent two years playing in the Big East, came off of the bench to provide a major offensive spark as Gonzaga sprinted out to a 47-26 halftime lead.

Still, while Coleman provided a great presence coming off the bench with 16 points, the win over CSU showed that depth may prove an issue for Few’s squad this season. Other than Coleman, no one provided much production to speak of, and that will be an issue if it continues, although Gonzaga’s less than challenging schedule should allow them to hide this flaw until March Madness rolls around.

Still, while Colorado State is not exactly a world-beater, the victory was still impressive in how dominant the Zags looked, especially on offense. But fans should be wary of what could happen if the jumpers are not falling, because the Bulldogs showed very little ability to score on the interior. The old saying in basketball is that if you live by the three, you die by the three, and that looks like it could very well be the case for Gonzaga this season.

Jeff is a college basketball writer on Follow him on Twitter @jekelish and “Like” him on Facebook.

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