Kyle Wlitjer

No. 9 Gonzaga’s depth on display in comfortable win at UCLA

Leave a comment

One week after suffering their lone defeat of the 2014-15 season, No. 9 Gonzaga was once again on the road facing a Pac-12 opponent. However unlike No. 3 Arizona, which defeated the Bulldogs in overtime last Saturday, Mark Few’s team took on a UCLA squad that lacked the depth needed to win a game of this caliber. And that’s how things played out at Pauley Pavilion, as Gonzaga won 87-74 with two newcomers leading the way.

Kyle Wiltjer scored a game-high 24 points and Byron Wesley added 20 on the night, and Gonzaga’s first 15 points were scored by players who didn’t see any game action last season. While Wiltjer was sitting out per NCAA transfer rules Wesley was toiling in relative obscurity at USC, where a lack of wins led to many overlooking his individual achievements, and Domantas Sabonis (ten points, six rebounds) was playing in Europe.

Those three combined to score 29 of Gonzaga’s 38 first half points, and just as important was the Bulldogs’ play on the defensive end of the floor. UCLA shot just 32.3% from the field in the first half, and Steve Alford’s Bruins nearly had as many turnovers (nine) as made field goals (ten).

Unlike Gonzaga, which has the pieces needed to account for a quiet half or game from a key contributor, UCLA needs all of its best weapons to perform well if they’re to beat high-level opposition.

Gonzaga kept Bryce Alford (23 points) under wraps in the first half, limiting him to five points on 2-for-7 shooting, and in the second half Norman Powell managed to score just four points. Add in a quiet night from Tony Parker (five points, nine rebounds) and UCLA found itself fighting an uphill battle.

Gonzaga’s depth gives them a margin for error that some teams just don’t have, and that was the case for UCLA. And while the Bulldogs may not have landed the knockout blow that could have turned this game into a blowout in the second half, they had more than enough production to maintain a comfortable margin. Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos scored nine points apiece, and that level of production wasn’t an issue for Gonzaga because others were ready to step forward.