There is passing a test with flying colors and there is what Gonzaga did to West Virginia on Monday night as the Zags won handily 84-50.
Ignoring the first few minutes where both teams struggled and it is a bit hard to find much of anything wrong with Gonzaga's play. Gonzaga struggled early with their shot, but luckily for them West Virginia struggled even more.
For the first five minutes of the game the Zags led 6-2. They opened the game 1 for 12, and many of those misses were on point blank layups or wide open shots. It didn't matter much however, as West Virginia made one field-goal two minutes in the game and would go seven minutes without another one.
Coach Mark Few did what seems like will be the consistent thing going forward this year. Many players saw many minutes this game, with nine players seeing the floor for over 10 minutes. Elias Harris and Pzremek Karnowski were both limited by foul trouble which once again forced Few to go with a small lineup. Like they did against Southern Utah, the small lineup worked well.
A lot of this is coming from the abilities of Guy Landry Edi to stretch the opposing defenses. He finished with 14 points, half of that coming from the free-throw line, and seven rebounds. His ability to make the open shot (he finished 1 for 1 from the three-point line) and slash to the paint makes him a dangerous gamble to try and guard. He is sort of like a leaner, quicker, less polished version of Elias Harris. With either one of those players on the floor it really opens up the game for backdoor cuts and screens resulting in a lot of open shots.
That is the main reason the Zags shot so well. After hitting close to 55 percent of their shots against Southern Utah, Gonzaga hit 52 percent of their shots against West Virginia - and that is after starting the game 1 for 12.
Once again, free-throw shooting wasn't all it would hope to be. As a team the Zags shot 63.9 percent from the free-throw line and left 13 points out of the equation. This isn't necessarily something to be concerned about too much early on, but if 10 games into the season the percentage is sitting the same than we might need to see the players taking free-throw reps in practice.
The Zags finished with 12 turnovers, but really it could have been less than double digits if you remove a particularly wild David Stockton in the waning minutes of the game. Stockton finished with five assists and two steals, but also had a very uncharacteristic five turnovers. As the team sped the game up, sometimes players were a step (or in some cases three or four) behind where the pass was ending up. We'll chalk that up to dusting those fast break cobwebs off.
So after dismantling Southern Utah everyone was saying the big test was Bob Huggin's West Virginia team. This is a tough litmus test to use for the Zags, because as good as they looked, West Virginia looked equally bad. Not all of that could be pegged on the Zags defense either. They had a lot of unforced turnovers and a lot of wide open shots that just weren't anywhere close to going in. The Mountaineers looked a bit defeated even before the game got out of hand and it just was pretty clearly not their night.
Make no mistake; this is a very good Gonzaga team that was playing on Monday night. But the stiffness of the challenge wasn't really apparent. However, if that is really the only negative you can take away with it there are worse things to have in life.