Plain and simple, Archie Miller out-coached Mark Few last night.
You might think it was an issue caused by the lack of our front court depth, and although that certainly hurt us on the defensive boards, some of our best defense played last night was when we played 5 guards towards the end of the game. They were able to pick up on all of the ball screens and motions that Dayton was setting and get some huge stops that lets us climb back into the game.
Our problem? Mark Few simply didn't rotate enough players into a game where the refs were calling the most ridiculous fouls, both ways. Gonzaga only accumulated three more fouls than Dayton, and many of these were called in the last few minutes when trying to stop the clock. Archie Miller made the right decision by bringing six players off the bench. Playing 11 players to Gonzaga's 8 allowed his team to spread out the fouls the refs were undoubtedly going to call on both teams, and prevent his starters from fouling out down the stretch. Gonzaga, on the other hand, had to play down the stretch without three starters in Dower, Karnowksi, and Pangos.
I'm not sure why Few didn't substitute Luke Meikle in to at least absorb some of our foul trouble. He is 6'8, and although inexperienced and not ready to play in a close game against a quality team such as Dayton, he should have been used. We already burned his option to redshirt and we don't have any bigs in our recruiting class next year. At least give the guy some minutes for his 5 extra fouls to give, and who knows, maybe he would surprise us. Also, giving him some early season experience could help us later this season if we run into a similar situation, which we will if we only play two bigs. I'm sure Dayton didn't put much prep into scouting him either.
I'm am now very excited and somewhat anxious to get Angel Nunez back once he is finished with sitting out ten games due to transfer from Louisville. At 6'8 and highly recruited out of high school, he will definitely become our X factor in games like last night.
I always believe good teams need to lose to get better, so hopefully this will help Gonzaga mature early on. I am pretty bummed that we now won't have a chance to play top 25 opponents Baylor or Syracuse in the Maui Invitational as we won't see many ranked opponents this year. Hopefully, losing in the first round of this tournament will motivate the Zags to go further come March.
Lets get over the loss, try to enjoy the rest of the tourny, and GO ZAGS!