Gonzaga’s offense offers a pick-your-poison dilemma for opposing defenses. The Bulldogs’ array of weapons makes it difficult to zero in on one aspect or player.
San Francisco chose the option of limiting Corey Kispert’s 3-point looks and the senior wing gave the Dons a heavy dose of his all-around game. The Dons won’t be the last to try that tactic, but Kispert is proving there’s much more to his game than a silky 3-point stroke.
The numbers show Kispert’s progression over four years. In his first three seasons, Kispert made 179 3-pointers and 167 2-point baskets. He attempted 455 3s and 299 2s. As a junior, he made 78 3s and 78 2s.
His staggering stats through 10 games this season: 31 of 61 on 3s (50.8%), 47 of 62 on 2s (75.8%). That compares to 39.3% on 3s and 55.9% on 2s in his first three years. He’s also made a career-best 88% of his free throws.
We repeat: Pick your poison.
“That is ridiculous,” said coach Mark Few, when told of Kispert’s 2-point accuracy. “I had no idea. That’s incredible.”
Kispert’s lone 3 against USF was a 40-footer to end the first half and give Gonzaga a 47-37 lead.
“What he’s done is he’s developed way more confidence,” Few continued. “He’s comfortable putting the ball on the deck and getting downhill and playing off that athleticism. He’s not just going in, diving into somebody looking for a foul. He’s looking maybe to get an and-one.
“From a coaching standpoint, it just warms your heart because nobody works harder and cares more. Early in his career he almost cared too much and he put lot of pressure on himself. Now he has the confidence and he’s focused and but also a little more relaxed and not so uptight about missing shots.”
Kispert submitted his name for the draft but decided to return for his senior season even though he received a second-round grade from most NBA evaluators. He would probably be on an NBA roster right now, but he listened to — and addressed — the feedback about his game.
Kispert told The Spokesman-Review during the pre-draft process that scouts loved his size, shooting range and ability to stretch the floor, but they wanted him work on defending, ballhandling and creating off the dribble.
The 6-foot-7 wing has improved in all three areas, and now he’s being mentioned as a first-round selection and possibly a lottery pick.
Early in the first half Saturday, Kispert scooped up a loose ball, dribbled two-thirds of the court and finished at the rim against two defenders. Seconds later, he drew an offensive foul on Josh Kunen. Kispert scored Gonzaga’s next basket with a two-bounce drive inside, absorbing contact from 6-10, 240-pound Jonas Visser and hitting a soft bank shot.
“I hope everybody is seeing how he’s getting downhill and really making plays in the open court going coast to coast,” Few said. “He’s guarding better. He’s everything you’d want out of your senior and within your program, getting better each year.”
Leg injury slows Cook
Grad transfer guard Aaron Cook didn’t play Saturday as he battles an “upper leg injury” sustained against Virginia on Dec. 26, Few said.
Cook played through discomfort against Northern Arizona and Dixie State earlier in the week. He had 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in 28 minutes. He’s averaging 4.1 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 13.9 minutes.
“He’s a tough, tough guy,” Few said. “It’s really been bothering him so we’ll probably get a picture of it and see what’s going on. He’s been battling it and battling it. It’s just not getting better.”
Cook is the first or second guard off the bench depending on if Andrew Nembhard is starting. Cook is a quality defender and probably would have seen extended minutes against San Francisco’s talented backcourt of Jamaree Bouyea and Khalil Shabazz.