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5 Things Learned from Gonzaga’s loss to Duke

Blue blood vs. new blood. Paolo Banchero vs. Chet Holmgren. Duke vs. Gonzaga. Recent headlines have said it all: this top-five matchup of two dominant powerhouses was one of the most hyped college basketball games this season. And it did not disappoint.

Last Friday night, No. 1 Gonzaga took on No. 5 Duke in front of a record-breaking 20,300 fans at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. A balanced matchup of talented stars led by two-star coaches, the game was a close one throughout. However, in the end, the Blue Devils defeated the Bulldogs 84-81, coming away with the Continental Tire Challenge Title.

“It’s just a really big-time game, what a great crowd,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski after the win. “We thought it might be a showcase game and it was. But having this type of crowd was amazing. Obviously, we feel great about the win, and we think we beat an outstanding basketball team.”

Here are some takeaways from the game.

The Blue Devils have depth they can rely on

Early in the second half, star forward Paolo Banchero faced a cramping issue, forcing him to go back to the locker room and miss significant time. Despite this, Duke continued to strive in rhythm as they turned to their co-stars. Mark Williams showed up, locking down an incredibly talented Zags frontcourt. He finished the game with 17 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. Veteran forward Wendell Moore Jr. carried the offensive load with Paolo out, staying calm and collective as he scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half. With composure, he made seven of his last eight free throw attempts as he led Duke to victory.

Duke should be No. 1

Duke handed Gonzaga their first regular-season loss since February of 2020. In this major win, the team showed poise, resilience, defensive integrity, and their high ceiling. Considering they have the best win of the season and three of the top-five teams in this week’s AP Top 25 poll have taken losses in the last few days, the Blue Devils should be at the top of the new poll in week 4.

Zags struggled beyond the arc

When things began to slow down in this fast-paced matchup, Gonzaga was forced to make their shots. They didn’t come through as they shot just 6-for-21 from three-point range. In a three-minute span late in the second half, Gonzaga went where the Bulldogs missed three consecutive shots from the field. With this said, it’s not overly concerning that their shots weren’t able to fall. However, in tightly contested games like these, the Zags need to knock down jumpers if they want to come away with the win.

Duke’s defensive made the Zags stumble

Facing aggressive defensive pressure, the Zags had a substantial issue of turnovers. Experienced guard Andrew Nembhard had a career-high of 6 turnovers. Timme also had five costly turnovers. As a team, they had a season-high of 17 turnovers, meaning they committed turnovers on nearly one-fourth of its possessions. This proved to be a major factor in Duke’s win. The Blue Devils won the margin by 9 turnovers and were able to capitalize by scoring 23 points off Gonzaga’s turnovers.

Julian Strawther continues his strong start

Behind the spotlight of Drew Timme, Andrew Nembhard, and Chet Holmgren, sophomore Julian Strawther showed he can hang on with the team’s stars. After Timme and Chet sat due to foul trouble, Strawther took over, as he scored 20 points and came away with 10 boards. Recording his second double-double of the season, the forward has taken on a major role in his 2021-22 campaign. With seven games of play, he is averaging 14.3 points per game, which ranks second on the Bulldogs, and is third in minutes at 25.5 and rebounds at 5.7.

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