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Archive for November 2006

The bottom line: The Zags found a way to win

GONZAGA

We’re going to write this slowly, in honor of the pace of the game.

Let’s see, Gonzaga University had one – that’s 1, uno, one-more-than-zip – fast-break basket – oops, almost wrote baskets – in its 69-51 win over Portland State.

So who cares?

Mark Few for one.

“I don’t think as a staff, we didn’t feel comfortable about any facet of that game, offensively or defensively,” Few said.

Monson resigns at Minnesota; Zags versus Vikings

GONZAGA

Before we get into tonight’s game, this news out of Minneapolis. Former Gonzaga coach Dan Monson resigned as head coach of the University of Minnesota today. We will have more on this as the night goes on.

UPDATE: Here’s a Fox Sports commentary on Monson leaving Minnesota. The thrust: He was out sooner or later, so the Gophers did the right thing moving now.

•••••••••••

Back in Spokane, there is a lot on the line for the Zags in their home game tonight (5; KHQ; 1510-AM):

• A 43-game home winning streak, the nation’s longest active streak;

• Thirty-one consecutive wins at McCarthey Athletic Center in 31 tries;

• Wins in their last 49 games in Spokane;

• A 6-1 record and a national ranking as high as 21st.

The loss to Butler in the NIT finals snapped another streak for GU: 21 consecutive regular season games.

Some notes on Portland State (4-2) of the Big Sky Conference:

• The Vikings are led by Scott Morrison’s 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

• They are 1-0 against the West Coast Conference, having defeated the University of Portland 69-53 Monday.

• They are 1-1 against the Pac-10 after being blown out at Oregon, 116-69, before winning at Arizona State, 71-67.

Make sure you click in after the game for the story on our Sports website (a link will appear here) and post-game commentary.

Zags face Portland State tonight and we’ll be there

GONZAGA

We’ll bring you full coverage of the Zags game tonight, but to tide you over until then, here’s a few things to read.

First off, you can peruse Steve Bergum’s preview of the game. Don’t forget to check Bergum’s blog for GU information.

Then you can tool around the country, with stories about the Bulldogs from every corner.

Do you remember whom the Zags opened the McCarthey Center against? We’ll, seeing as Portland State comes to town tonight, that should give you a hint. Then read this Oregonian story concerning the Vikings’ Scott Morrison and you’ll know for sure.

The Sporting News mid-major report makes the same point about GU that alluded to in an earlier post: The league they play in is mid-major; the program itself is not.

I’ve asked this before, but where do you think GU stands in the pantheon of college basketball? As I’ve said, I vote for a major program playing in a mid-major - but improving - league. Thanks to GU’s success, I see the WCC moving into Missouri Valley Conference territory soon, with one or two teams besides GU beating up teams around the country. Do you think that’s in the conference’s future?

Bruton ready to play again

CHIEFS, WHL

When the Chiefs travel to Tri-City on Saturday (7 p.m.; Comcast channel 12; 790-AM), they’ll probably have assistant captain Chris Bruton available.

Bruton, who has been out two weeks following facial surgery, will probably be wearing a mask but will be ready to go.

For more, check out Jeff Bunch’s Chiefs blog.

••••••••••

The Everett Silvertips made a change, dealing a draft pick for 19-year-old right wing Dan Gendur from Prince George. The trade may just upgrade the Tips’ offense.

The Tri-City Americans sent out a player.

Portland, which upset Vancouver last weekend, doesn’t get back into action until the Winter Hawks host Everett on Saturday.

Lewis and Clark has the potential to defend its title

PREPS

The Greater Spokane League opened its basketball season Tuesday night with very little in the way of upsets.

On the girls side of things, the wife and I watched defending state 4A champion Lewis and Clark host Mt. Spokane, coached by former LC assistant Lori Kistler in her first high school game.

Just sort of wanted to be in Squinty Hunter Fieldhouse when they raised the championship banner, you know? Of course, it was already up on the wall, so that purpose was all shot to heck before the game even started.

But, in talking with LC coach Jim Redmon before the game, it was evident he believes his team has a ways to go to compete for a title. And, after watching the first half, it was evident he has a point – but the potential is certainly there.

Anyhow, here’s our GSL girls story which leads with Mead’s easy win over Ferris, and our boys story, with the top game being Shadle’s win over last year’s 4A finalist, Central Valley.

In Idaho, Coeur d’Alene and Lake City met for the first of what could be as many as five times this season, and it was an overtime battle won by the Vikings.

We also had a roundup of the outlying games.

Cougs won’t be going bowling

COUGARS

The football season is over. All hail the basketball season.

Or something like that.

The Cougs are sure now they aren’t going to a bowl game, as Glenn Kasses’ story today makes abundantly clear. The information I put up last night about ASU and the Hawaii Bowl turned out to be the last nail in WSU’s football coffin.

The Times’ Craig Smith has the same sad news for Cougar fans, as does the News Tribune.

So it’s time to look forward to the basketball season.

The Cougs host the University of Portland tonight (7; 920-AM), with a chance to go 7-0.

We’ll post something as soon as we can tonight on the Cougars and all the college basketball right here at SportsLink.

And don’t forget to keep up with the latest WSU news on Glenn’s blog.

Who would you vote into the Hall of Fame?

BASEBALL

The positives: Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn are on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year. The negative: So is Mark McGwire.

Now I know Gwynn’s body changed as much over the course of his career as McGuire’s did, but the Padres’ star did it the old-fashioned way: with doughnuts, pasta and beer. So he would get my vote, if I had one. McGwire’s body changed because of, allegedly, performance-enhancing drugs. Because of that, he would never get my vote, despite the numbers he put up.

Cal Ripken? Yes. Jose Canseco? Jay Buhner? No.

How about you? Who would you vote for, who wouldn’t you vote for and why? Click the comments link and let me know.

GSL basketball starts tonight

PREPS

Mike Vlahovich had his Greater Spokane League boys basketball season preview today, centering around Shadle Park’s Nick Gaebe, along with this quick look at the league.

The team-by-team capsules are here, part of Mike’s Prep Report blog.

The league schedule kicks off tonight, and I was wondering where you were going and why. Just click comments and let me know.

The Seattle Times ranked the state boys’ teams today, with Ferris (8) and Central Valley (10) in the 4A rankings but no one from our area in the 3A rankings.

Craig Smith has a heartwarming lead to his Sideline Smitty column. And here is the schedule for this weekend’s Gridiron Classic.

The Everett Herald takes a look at the lack of a four-year college wrestling program in the state and its effect on the state’s high school wrestlers.

Making a quick spin around local college hoops

GONZAGA, EASTERN, COLLEGE BASKETBALL UPDATED: 12:35 P.M.

As I asked in the post below, I want to know where you think the Zags rank right now. So far, the consensus seems to be that where they are is perfect, but I’m not convinced. Convince me.

And don’t forget to vote on our reader poll.

For more on Zags’ basketball, check Steve Bergum’s blog.

UPDATE: A J.P. Batista sighting, courtesy of a reader. Follow this link for the SEB Baltic Basketball League website and the mention of Batista’s 18-point, 21-rebound game. A little tough to translate, but readable.

Nevada may be in the top 25 like Gonzaga, but the Wolfpack seem to feel the GU game is their biggest of the season. The student newspaper, in its advance of the upcoming Cal game, puts a lot of emphasis on the meeting with GU.

A writer at CollegeHoops.net is picking the Bulldogs as a Final Four team. He qualifies it some, but was really impressed with their NIT play. He points out they are playing team basketball – where have you read that before – and that team chemistry will carry them a long way in March.

••••••••••

I went to a track meet last night and a basketball game broke out (insert rim shot here). Actually, Eastern’s win was entertaining if you like basketball spelled without a d – and I’m not a big fan of that style. The Cal State Fullerton Titan’s idea of defense is to force you to make a layup, so they can make a 3-pointer on the other end. If they make enough, they win.

Eastern struggled for most of the game defending what was basically a five-guard Fullerton alignment, but in one key stretch the Eagles defense came through, they put together a 10-0 run and they won by 10.

The Eagles return home Wednesday night, hosting Eastern Oregon (7:05; 790-AM), a team populated with Spokane-area talent, including Ferris’ Jeremy Templeton and Mt. Spokane’s Derek Brown. The Mountaineers (8-1) are coached by Central Valley graduate Ryan Looney.

For more on EWU, check Dave Trimmer’s blog.

••••••••••

Huskies make a lineup change for their game with Idaho on Wednesday, dropping Ryan Appleby from the starting five and replacing him with freshman Adrian Oliver at shooting guard. That means UW will start three freshmen against the Vandals.

Zags now in both polls, but are they too low?

GONZAGA

So they defeat the then-No. 2 team in the nation on a neutral floor. They suffer their lone defeat against a team now ranked as high as 18th in the nation. They rout a local rival to raise their record to 6-1.

But the Zags still aren’t in the top 20. The new polls are out, and GU is 21st in the USA Today coaches’ poll and 22nd in the Associated Press rankings.

So I’m asking you: Where do you think the Zags really belong right now? You have a choice: Top 10; 11-20; the pollsters have it right; or they should be unranked.

Let me know. I’m going to right about polls, surveys and the like in my newspaper column tomorrow. But you get to have a jump on the rest of the readership. Click in and share your opinion.

By the way, UCLA is No. 1 in the AP poll, Washington is 13, Arizona 16 and Nevada 24. The Zags still have ranked teams Duke (11), Washington, Memphis (14), Nevada and Virginia (25) on the schedule (Texas is 26th).

Eastern faces Titans from So Cal

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

With the Seahawks on Monday Night Football – and Hasslebeck and Alexander playing together for the first time in weeks – do you think the crowd at the Eastern game tonight will be affected?

The Eagles host Cal State Fullerton (4-0) in a non-conference game. Fullerton recently defeated UT San Antonio 67-63, the same team that was blown out in the Kennel recently. In a quirk of scheduling, the Titans next home game is against UTSA. Weird.

•••••••••••

The Whitworth Pirates finished a long road trip Sunday, taking on a Cal Tech team that is considered one of the worst college basketball team on the West Coast – though the five starters may all design a way for us to visit Jupiter some day.

The Pirates (6-0) gave their starters a rest, played reserves and still won 83-30. Whitworth will play its first home game Wednesday at 8 p.m. against Walla Walla College.

Not many schools from area in state football finals

PREPS

The football seasons for all the Inland Northwest are over – save one: The St. John-Endicott Eagles.

The Eagles (12-1) will be playing in the 1B – formerly B-8 – state championship game Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Tacoma Dome against Lummi (11-1).

The last time St.John-Endicott played for the state title was in 1984, when the Eagles lost to Wiskah Valley 40-28 in the Kingdome.

There is also one other team if you consider Asotin (9-3) as part of the Inland Northwest, and we used to before it moved up to the 2B ranks and out of the Whitman County League. The Panthers still playing as well, facing undefeated La Salle (13-0) in the 2B final Friday night.

Mike Vlahovich covers all this – and G-Prep’s season-ending loss to Oak Harbor in the 4A playoffs – in his Monday prep notebook.

••••••••••

Football isn’t the only prep sport covered in today’s paper. With Greater Spokane League basketball beginning Tuesday, we ran our girls preview of the league by correspondent Jason Shoot. One correction, which I fixed in the on-line version of the story, G-Prep made regionals last season, but lost one-game short of the state tournament.

Also available is a quick look at the upcoming girls season and, in on on-line exclusive, team-by-team capsules on the GSL girls’ teams.

Coming Tuesday will be the boys’ preview. As always, if you want more, check out Mike Vlahovich’s Prep Report blog and Greg Lee’s Idaho Prep Sports blog.

••••••••••

The Seattle Times named its all-area football team today, with Oak Harbor’s Marshall Lobbestael the quarterback. After watching his play Saturday, sitting with a former college quarterback who raved over his performance, I agree he’s pretty darn good.

The Times also has a state finals’ notebook. The P-I adds a 4A preview and one from the 3A game.

Rene Ferran summarizes the Columbia Basin games from Saturday that left only 1A Connell standing.

Erickson mentioned for ASU opening

IDAHO FOOTBALL

The reason I posted Dirk Koetter’s dismissal yesterday at ASU is simple: The names that will pop up to replace him.

On the list the Arizona Republic put together are two names with local ties: former longtime Washington State and current UTEP coach Mike Price and – I know you’re not surprised – current Vandal coach Dennis Erickson.

Yes, Erickson’s on a coaching vacancy list. And will probably be mentioned in every job opening that comes up. That’s the price you pay for hiring a coach that hasn’t stayed anywhere long enough to pay of a car loan, let alone a mortgage.

But will the rumors turn into fact? Probably not. Not after a 4-8 year that ended with five consecutive losses. But after a year of recruiting and the seemingly inevitable winning season next year, the offers will carry more weight – and money.

For more on the Vandals, check Jim Meehan’s blog.

GU has little trouble with Vandals

GONZAGA, IDAHO UPDATED 4:05 P.M.; 5:15 P.M.

The M.O. seemed familiar. The Bulldogs used a tough-to-crack defense - holding Idaho to 38 percent shooting - and strong play from Derek Raivio (24 points, six rebounds) and Josh Heytvelt (16 points, 11 rebounds) to defeat UI, 76-51.

You can find the game story here.

UPDATE: I’ve added the Associated Press story on the extended entry link along with the box score.

UPDATE 2: This one bracket-projection site has its first seeds up. GU is a five. I guess it is about time to propose brackets. Snow fell today.

Spokane has a November to remember

CHIEFS

As Jeff Bunch says in his story this morning, the Chiefs are on a roll.

Spokane won its fifth game in seven starts Saturday night, defeating Kelowna 3-1, giving the Chiefs a 7-1 home record in November.

You can find more on the Chiefs on Jeff’s blog.

••••••••••

No matter how hot the Chiefs are, they are still losing ground to the Everett Silvertips, who just refuse to lose. Saturday night, they knocked off Tri-City 5-3. Everett leads the U.S. Division with a 21-2-0-1 record.

Seattle lost again, this one 5-2 to Calgary.

Inland Northwest almost completely shut out

PREPS

There is one Inland Northwest team left in the final 10 playing high school football in the state. The St. John-Endicott Eagles.

Every other team east of the Columbia (or Snake) River lost Saturday, including the top-ranked 4A team, Gonzaga Prep. Other upsets including what many considered the state’s best team, Prosser, and the school with the best defense, Kamiakin.

Here is Mike Vlahovich’s story of St. John-Endicott’s win over Pateros at Albi Stadium in the 1B semifinals and his coverage of G-Prep’s loss to Oak Harbor in the 4A playoffs (you can find SportsLink’s coverage from Saturday here). Their was also this story from the Everett Herald and this one in the Times.

From Yakima, there is this story of Prosser’s upset loss in the 2A semis to Centralia, along with a Tri-Cities story and one from the News Tribune and another from the Times.

Kamiakin was also ousted from the 3A tournament by Kennedy. Here is the Tri-City Herald story and the Times’ story.

Bothell continued its miracle season with an upset of previously undefeated Edmonds-Woodway.

ASU’s Aubree Johnson’s brother Jordan dies at tournament

COLLEGE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

The Arizona State game Saturday with Rutgers in the U.S. Virgin Islands was called off due to the death Aubree Johnson’s 15-year-old brother.

According to the Virgin Islands police, Johnson’s brother Jordan, in the islands to watch his sister play in the Paradise Jam, died in his sleep. The Johnsons are from Post Falls.

The Associated Press story follows on the rest of entry link.

Prep stopped in semifinals

PREPS

Oak Harbor defeated Gonzaga Prep 14-10 to earn a spot in the State 4A football championship game next Saturday. You can find the game story here. There will also be more commentary at SportsLink soon.

Oak Harbor rallies; Prep leads 10-7 at half

PREPS

There were the first two Prep drives – the second of which ended in a 29-yard Mat Barker field goal. Then there was the rest of the half.

That “rest of the half” showed what type of team Oak Harbor has.

Quarterback Marshall Lobbestael has a Pac-10 arm, appropriate as he has committed to attend Washington State. He has hit Rodrick Rumble (who should be a running back with a name like that instead of a receiver) for 26 yards on a fade that was as perfect a throw as you’ll see a high school quarterback make.

Lobbestael marched the Wildcats 80 yards in 12 plays midway through the second quarter to cut the Prep lead to 10-7, where it stands right now at halftime.

The scoring play was a 13-yard pass from Lobbestael to H-back Connor McClary, open down the middle.

The Prep defense has made some adjustments, so has Oak Harbor’s, so the second half may pivot on the first possession, with the Wildcats getting the ball first. If they score, it will make the rest of the half different.

If it stays close, however, I wouldn’t bet against Gonzaga Prep.

Oak Harbor has some surprises

PREPS

The weather is nearly perfect, cold and clear, with just a hint of snow in the air.

The first impression: Oak Harbor’s Wildcats are bigger than you might have thought.

The second impression: They are also faster.

This one will be tough for Prep if they fall behind early as has been its want. They’ll have to start faster and get a jump. Otherwise …

We’ll be back at the end of the first quarter.

Chiefs lose in Kamloops, host Kelowna tonight

CHIEFS, WHL

The Spokane Chiefs did lose Friday night in 4-3 in Kamloops but the news isn’t all bad for Chiefs fans.

Jeff Bunch documented the recent exploits of a Chiefs line that is on a roll this month.

The Chiefs host Kelowna tonight (7:30; 790-AM) in the Arena after WSU plays Boise State in basketball at 1 p.m. A quick turnaround for the Arena staff.

There’s more Chiefs information on Jeff’s blog.

••••••••••

Everett just keeps on rolling, though it took seven rounds of a shootout to defeat Seattle 2-1 on Friday night.

The Vancouver Giants rebounded from their loss in Spokane on Wednesday by routing Tri-City 5-1. The Giants will play in Portland tonight.

Whitworth a 10-tradition underdog to St. John’s

WHITWORTH, VANDALS, COLLEGE FOOTBALL

On the field, there are a lot of similarities between the Pirates and their second-round NCAA Division III football playoff opponent St. John’s. Both teams have double digits in wins, both have an exceptional quarterback and both play tough defense.

Off the field, there is no comparison, as John Blanchette’s story today points out. Heck, Whitworth coach John Tully just hopes to be around at 80, not still coaching like St. John’s head man John Gagliardi. And the Johnnies have four national titles to their credit, the Pirates none.

But it doesn’t matter when the two teams take the frozen Pine Bowl turf today (noon; 1230-AM). They’ll start even and the winner will move on to the quarterfinals of the tournament.

••••••••••

Speaking of winning, that’s the only goal the Idaho Vandals have today (2 p.m.; 790-AM, 1080-AM) when they host San Jose State.

UI is 4-7 overall, but 3-4 in Western Athletic Conference play, so a win would give them a .500 conference season. You can find more at Jim Meehan’s blog.

••••••••••

Alexis Serna’s 40-yard field goal in a pouring rain gave Oregon State a 30-28 win over archrival Oregon on Friday, and probably clinched third in the Pac-10 for the Beavers.

Zag women to meet No. 2 UNC; Eastern men lose

GONZAGA WOMEN, EASTERN MEN

Talk about deja vu.

The Zag women knocked off 21st-ranked UCLA in the first round of the Rainbow Wahine Classic 62-57 Friday.

That earns them - stop me if you’ve heard this before - a date Saturday with No. 2-ranked North Carolina.

Can they do what the men’s team did? And if they do, would it be the first time that’s ever happened - one school knocking off another in both men’s and women’s play in the same week, while both losing teams were ranked second in the nation?

Of course there is no way of knowing, but it sounds kind of rare. Let’s see if it happens.

••••••••••

EWU hung tough until the last couple minutes, but in the end the Hsuky men had too much. To read about the game, click on Dave Trimmer’s blog.

Zags’ defense is letting them down

GONZAGA

I was wrong about Gonzaga’s ability to defend in this one.

After the first five games, I really thought the Zags were a better on-ball defensive team than they’ve been in the past few years.

But Butler is making them look slow with their ball movement and their dribble penetration. It is also showing an ability to free up its shooters, who are rarely missing tonight. Remember, this is the same team that hit just 6 of 30 3-point shots against a Tennessee team that seemed disinterested in defense (Butler is 9 of 22 at the half, which it leads 43-29).

The other thing that’s obvious is yes, Butler’s guys have played a lot of football – as I mistakenly wrote earlier – and they took the contact lessons from that sport to the Madison Square Garden floor.

Steve Lavin keeps saying they play old-school basketball. If there was this much contact in a 1960s or 1970s game, every member of the Butler team would have fouled out – in the first 5 minutes. Still, you have to give them credit for playing so hard.

For GU to score, they have to move the ball better and not try to win with the bounce. The problem is now they are so far behind, it may be tough for them to run flex to get good looks.

The one positive for GU fans: Butler has some foul trouble. Three inside guys have two fouls. We’ll see if the Zags can take advantage of it.

Here’s the skinny on Butler’s Bulldogs

GONZAGA

A couple of notes about the Butler Bulldogs.

They are the winningest team in the state of Indiana in the past 10 years, averaging 21.6 wins per year in that span. …

Seven of the Butler players played their high school hoops in the state of Indiana. …

Believe it or not, the Bulldogs from Indiana are the No. 1 team in the nation, despite not being ranked in the polls. Butler is No. 1 in the RPI, ahead of No. 2 UCLA. …

Tennessee shot 10 percent in the second half against Butler. …

Gonzaga has to fly all the way back to Spokane and be ready to play Idaho on Sunday at 1 p.m. Butler plays Saturday night in Indianapolis against Kent State. …

A.J. Graves, a 6-foot-1 guard, leads Butler in scoring at 17.8 points per game. He had back-to-back games over 20 points in the Bulldogs’ wins over Notre Dame and Indiana, but was 4 of 14 while scoring 15 against Tennessee.

My pick: GU shuts down Butler’s outside game, limits penetration and executes in the half court to win 78-54.

See you after the game starts.

Mariners probably going to be shut out in arms race

MARINERS, SEAHAWKS

The Hot Stove League is burning the Mariners. Again.

The cost of pitching – thanks Red Sox – is pricing the M’s out of the market, according to this Seattle Times story.

The guys on their list now: Adam Eaton, Japanese left-hander Kei Igawa, maybe Jason Schmidt. But forget about any big names or big arms.

••••••••••

It’s tough to get a ticket for Monday night’s game, though Packer fans are doing their best to buy what’s available.

Shaun Alexander wants to win the Seahawks’ last nine games this season. Figure it out.

Johnnies have a local connection

WHITWORTH, IDAHO, COLLEGE FOOTBALL

When St. John’s comes to the Pine Bowl on Saturday (noon) to face Whitworth in the NCAA Division II playoffs, one of the Johnnies will be playing a home game of sorts.

As John Blanchette relates, Coeur d’Alene High graduate Phil Giesen will be coming back to the Inland Northwest as the starting tight end for St. John’s. Like a lot of Johnnies, he’s a legacy.

••••••••••

Dennis Erickson coached the San Francisco 49ers for two years. Those weren’t the best two years in the franchise’s history, though some might say the foundation for the 49ers’ current success was laid then.

With the Vandals playing San Jose State on Saturday, here’s a view of Erickson from the Bay Area. The Spartans play at the Kibbie Dome in the Vandals (4-7 overall, 3-4 in the WAC) last game on Saturday.

For more, check out Jim Meehan’s blog.

••••••••••

Bud Withers writes about the chance Seattle might get another bowl game at Qwest Field.

The Pac-10 rankings from the Vancouver Columbian and a commentary about the lack of a Division I playoff.

Contrasting styles as Bulldogs meet

GONZAGA UPDATED 2:10 P.M.

It will be a contrast of styles tonight in the finals of the preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden (4 p.m.; ESPN2).

At least that’s how GU coach Mark Few sees it, according to Steve Bergum’s advance.

Watching Butler play Tennessee in the semifinals, I was struck by how the Bulldogs (yes, there are two Bulldogs playing tonight) try to break you down with the dribble. The Indiana squad doesn’t try to break down your defense with back cuts a lot, a la Princeton. The Bulldogs don’t run a patterned passing game, a la flex. They don’t pass and cut a la Texas Tech.

They catch, face and beat you with the bounce. Tennessee couldn’t guard them, broke down out front and bad things happened. It will be up to Jeremy Pargo, Derek Raivio and Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes to keep the Butler guards in front of them and make them shoot 10-footers.

We’ll be back before the game with some information, then be on during the game with an occasional comment. Afterward, we’ll post a game story right away and a column about the result. Also, don’t forget to check out Steve’s blog.

UPDATE: Seth Davis’ hoop thoughts at SI.com have a GU connection.

Happy Thanksgiving. Here’s your Zag feast

GONZAGA

Happy Thanksgiving.

The sad part about a virtual sports section – which is what I consider SportsLink to be – is there are no Thanksgiving ads or coupons.

You can’t sit in front of your computer and circle the toys and clothes and movies and music you’re going to buy Friday before 9 a.m. so that your Christmas shopping is done. Then you eat too much, drink too much and sleep until noon.

Ah well, maybe next year.

So tell me, if you know, how big is the Thanksgiving New York Times?

The Gonzaga Bulldogs get to find out today, and they get to open the Times sports section and read about their upset of North Carolina. You say you want to do the same thing? Well click here and you can (though, unlike the Zags, you’ll have to register).

(As an aside, it never ceases to amaze me how little some people who work at big-time newspapers actually know about the sports they cover. This story is an example of this. Nowhere in it does Bill Finley write about why Tyler Hansbrough (pictured, surrounded by David Pendergraft and Jeremy Pargo; Associated Press photo) struggled all night, he just blames him for the UNC defeat.)

Back to the stories. Here’s Steve Bergum’s piece from our newspaper. Poor Steve has to spend the holiday in New York away from his family. I hope you’ll join me in wishing him a happy holiday. Don’t eat too much.

Steve may have more later on his blog, though it is a holiday.

Zags defeat No. 2 UNC, Butler next

GONZAGA

The Zags survived again. You can find the story of the game here, and I’ll be back soon with commentary.

I’ve read through your comments, and I’ll try to address those as well.

You should have to be able to count to three to get a whistle

GONZAGA

Loosely officiated is one thing. But not being able to count to three? That’s not loose, that’s plain ol’ slacking off.

The Tar Heels run a lot of screen and pins in the key, and in two different possessions – having run them through the DVR – they have been in the key at least six or seven seconds. With the UNC size, if that is allowed to continue, GU has no chance.

Unless Heytvelt can make that same block about 12 times.

Morrison has another good game

MORRISON WATCH

Charlotte won its third win of the season and Adam Morrison is having another good game. It seems when Morrison has a strong scoring night, the Bobcats win or at least compete down to the wire.

In Charlotte’s 92-83 win over visiting Boston, Morrison hit 8 of 17 shots, including 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, was 7 of 10 from the line and scored a team-high 26 points.

You can find the box score here.

The announcers are better suited for golf

GONZAGA

So do we really have to listen to Brett Musburger and Steve Lavin all night?

That’s not my idea of excitement. In fact, I may not need an Excedrin PM tonight, this duo will do the job.

As I watch Butler upset Tennessee, I’m starting to think the GU game won’t start on time (6:15) but closer to 6:30 or so.

We’ll be back.

State semifinal sites luck of the draw and WIAA rules

PREPS

There is a lot of inaccurate information being posted on Mike Vlahovich’s Prep Report blog - not by Mike but by readers commenting on his recent Gonzaga Prep post. Most of the pronlem posts concern the sites for the state semifinals.

Let me try to clear it up a little.

The WIAA mandates state semifinal football games have to be at WIAA-approved sites. First round and quarterfinal games can be on home sites, but not semifinals (if they are not on the WIAA-approved list - this is a clarification of an earlier statement). As part of having the finals at the Tacoma Dome, the WIAA has all the West Side semifinals there as well. Coaches I have talked to over the years like this, because it gives their teams an opportunity to play on the surface – which is new this year – and in the facility prior to the championships. Some have even told me they thought it was a big advantage to play in the Dome semifinal week.

Over on this side of the state, the WIAA has approved certain stadiums for semifinal play. They include Albi (though last year, with the old turf, Albi was out of the rotation), Martin Stadium, Pasco’s Edgar Brown and Kennewick’s Lampson Stadium.

Now, whether you play on the East Side or West Side is all determined by the bracket. If Eastlake had held on and defeated G-Prep last week, the Oak Harbor-Eastlake game would have been at the Tacoma Dome.

And, if the school districts hadn’t replaced the turf at Albi Stadium last summer, this Saturday’s G-Prep-Oak Harbor game would have been in either Pullman or, more likely, the Tri-Cities.

As for the game-time change, the first times posted on the WIAA website are usually not official. The official times, in my experience, don’t usually get determined until late Monday morning, after all the calls are made and all the site schedules worked out. If you want to read about a real time snafu, check out this post by Rene Ferran concerning Saturday’s Kamiakin game.

By the way, there’s a real good chance there will be snow showers Saturday.

Lake City opens IEL play with win

PREPS

A quick day with just a few notes.

Lake City opened the Inland Empire League girls basketball season with a win over Post Falls.

There is more information on Greg Lee’s Idaho blog and Mike Vlahovich’s blog.

The state 4A football playoffs in Washington have been wacky, and the News Tribune’s Todd Milles illuminates just how wacky in a story today.

A shortage of officials in the Bellingham area has forced the Northwest Conference to change its basketball schedule, spreading boys and girls over four days instead of three. It’s shades of the future folks. Think about that the next time you want to yell at the official.

Gagliardi is the definition of longtime coach

WHITWORTH

The Pirates opponent in the NCAA Division III playoffs is St. John’s. The best football-playing St. John’s in the nation.

It’s also coached by the winningest college coach of all-time, John Gagliardi, who has coached in college football for 58 years. John Blanchette profiled Gagliardi in today’s column.

Of Gagliardi’s more than 400 victories, one came against Whitworth pack in 1975. John also has a story on how the Johnnies came to play in Spokane that year. It’s a fun read.

GU and UNC have similiarities

GONZAGA

It’s a mutual admiration society.

Gonzaga’s Mark Few says his program follows the lead set by Roy Williams at Kansas and now at North Carolina. Roy Williams loves Gonzaga, as this story from deep down Tobacco Road (from the Durham Herald-Sun) shows.

Steve Bergum has more on his blog. And don’t forget to check back here before the game and after for the commentary and a summary of the action right afterward.

From the Raleigh-Durham News and Observer, Williams says he still trying to figure out his player rotation for this year. Right now it’s “a seat of the pants thing,” according to Williams.

In the Charlotte Observer, there’s a pregame graphic. One note in the graphic: GU is 7-1 against Atlantic Coast Conference teams. I know they lost to Maryland in the NCAA Tournament, so the Zags must have won every other game with ACC schools.

Here is the ESPN preview of the game. The network will be televising the game tonight (6; ESPN2).

This blog has a surprisingly deep scouting report on the game.

And finally, West Coast college hoop expert Frank Burlison of the Long Beach Independent Telegram on the game.

Who was the best quarterback our area’s produced?

 PREPS

The two paragraphs that follow are from an earlier post today. But the third, that came to me while I was trying to figure out where my glasses were hiding. Go ahead, join in the discussion.

The best pass-and-catch combo in the state’s history? The numbers say Prosser senior quarterback Kellen Moore and his No. 1 receiver, junior Cody Bruns.

The Times also ran a list of what it thinks is the best high school quarterbacks in the state’s history.

So who do you thnk was the best high school quarterback this area’s ever produced? Was it Mark Rypien? Was it Joel Clark? Will Furrer? Let me know. Just click on the comment line and give your choice and why you think that way.

I’d like to hear from you whether you’ve seen 40 years of local high school play or just the past few.

Vote on your favorite Zag team

GONZAGA

In our never-ending search for fun, we ran a story this morning and posted a summary and question on Steve Bergum’s blog concerning the best GU basketball team of all time. You can also vote on our poll.

Now I’m not going to say which GU team was “best,” but I’ll tell you my favorite: The 1993-94 NIT team.

John Rillie, the two Jeffs or Geoffs (Brown and Goss), the two Jasons (Bond and Rubright), Scott Spink. A coaching staff led by Fitz, with Dan Monson, Mark Few and Bill Grier. The first WCC title. The first postseason tournament, the NIT. Beating Stanford on the road.

What a fun group. And they played in a Kennel that still had open seats.

Late night means late post

COUGARS

You know you’re getting started late when Ellen is on the TV, but I have a good excuse.

Have you ever had a kid ride a bus home from college – or did you ever ride the bus home? For some reason they always arrive in Spokane after midnight – a fine time if you are college student or a cabbie or a burglar. But no so good if you have crested that hill everyone talks about and are on the other side. For goodness sakes, it took two cups of coffee for me to keep my eyes open and then, when we got back, I was too wired to fall asleep.

That’s my sad, sad story and I’m sticking with it.

Now on to the Cougs.

Glenn Kasses outlined their bowl chances in this morning’s paper, and, as Dennis Patchin called them, slim and none, though slim is still in town. But, I would add, his bags are packed.

There’s more on Glenn’s blog.

Craig Smith covers much of the same ground in the Times, echoing much of the information Glenn has written about this week.

Bill Doba made it clear talking to Todd Milles he’ll be back next year – and that he wants to bring his whole staff back. One minor suggestion: Rearrange who coaches the special teams. That group was poor from the start and didn’t improve as the year wore on. Isn’t that the goal of any coach, to see his charges improve?

In the P-I, Jim Moore isn’t eating turkey on Thursday. No, he’ll be dining on crow with a side of AppleCup sauce.

••••••••••

The Cougar basketball team is back in action tonight, with a 7 p.m. game (KXLY, 920-AM) against Idaho State. WSU is 4-0 for the first time since 1996.

Zags move into coaches’ top 25

GONZAGA

The Bulldogs’ 4-0 start was good enough to get them in the today’s USA Today college basketball coaches’ poll at the 24th spot.

Other teams of note: North Carolina, GU’s opponent Wednesday, is second; UCLA is fifth; Duke No. 8; Memphis, 11; Washington 13; Arizona 15; Nevada 20; and Tennessee, which plays Butler in the other NIT semifinal, 21.

In the Associated Press writers’ poll, the Zags are still outside the top 25, finishing 27th this week.

Steve Bergum has more GU news on his blog.

College basketball hall of fame makes right choices

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

There is a lot to write about here, both good and bad, but were going to start with the best.

John Wooden.

OK, I admit it. I’m prejudiced. Deeply prejudiced. I grew up watching the Bruins on TV, watching them play basketball the way it was meant to be played – and if I ever say a college team plays like those UCLA teams, it’s the ultimate compliment I can give.

The reason UCLA played the way it played: John Wooden.

He’s the greatest coach, not just the greatest college basketball coach, who ever ran a team.

Someday, when my fingers are rested and there’s a need to fill space on SportsLink, I’ll expound on why I feel this way, but today I just am using the above word as an introduction into the induction of the first National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame class in Kansas City, Mo., on Sunday.

And what a class: Wooden, Bill Russell, who led the University of San Francisco to back-to-back NCAA titles in the mid-50s, Oscar Robertson, UNC coach Dean Smith and the late inventor of the game – and former Kansas coach – Dr. James Naismith.

Wooden, who is 96 years old, was at the ceremony. So were the other living inductees. Of course, Naismith wasn’t there. But that’s OK. Naismith may have invented the game but Wooden perfected it.

The Apple Cup, one day later

COUGARS

The Apple Cup is over, and you weren’t too happy about it.

Given your opportunity to vent here, and on Glenn Kasses’ Cougar blog, you took full advantage.

And we’ll get into that, I promise.

But right now I wanted to go through the follow-up stories available, just to grind in the thorn a little more.

First off, you can read Glenn’s analysis from today’s paper and his recap of the game. When you finish with that, and if you want to subject yourself to more, there’s these stories from the West Side.

GU wins game, loses Downs

GONZAGA

The Zags blew out Texas San Antonio 92-48 Sunday night and you can read about it here.

But GU suffered a big loss Sunday as well.

Micah Downs, the transfer from Kansas who was expected to contribute immediately when he became eligible in mid-December, may not be playing this year.

Downs had surgery to repair his injured foot Sunday and will miss at least the next six to eight weeks, when his status will be reevaluated.

The news on Downs just multiplies the Zags’ injury woes. Freshman Theo Davis is out with a shoulder injury, sophomore Larry Gurganious is out indefinitely with a back problem and GU’s other transfer, David Burgess, is still recuperating a knee.

Huskies surprise Cougars - in more than one way

APPLE CUP

Three weeks ago, the Cougars had such high expectations.

Sporting a 6-3 record and a national ranking, a postseason bowl game was so tantalizing close. All they had to do in the season’s final weeks was reach out and grab it.

It was something they expected to do against Arizona at home. They didn’t.

It was something they expected to do against Arizona State on the road. They didn’t.

It was something they finally expected to do in the Apple Cup, an Apple Cup against a Husky team coming in with a six-game losing streak, including a season-ruining 20-3 loss last Saturday to then-winless Stanford.

It was all there. All they had to do was reach out and grab it.

A Husky win

APPLE CUP

The University of Washington put together a series of big plays to stop WSU, 35-32 in the 99th Apple Cup on Saturday in Pullman.

You can find the game story here.

More commentary to come.

UW at WSU: Halftime

APPLE CUP

There were four touchdowns scored in the second quarter – and only one of them would be considered of the ordinary variety.

That would be the first one the Cougars scored, the one that broke the 0-0 tie. It came at the end of a 95-yard drive and seemed to open the floodgates – if you consider a squirt-gun stream a flood.

The Huskies’ answer was a long pass play made possible by a) as good a catch as you’ll ever see by Cody Ellis and b) a mistaken notion by Tyron Brackenridge that Ellis was going to miss the pass and Brackenridge would have a pick. That combination resulted in a tie game at seven.

Which Eric Frampton promptly untied with a pick six, prompting exactly 34 seconds of cheering by the Cougar faithful.

It only lasted that long because Marlon Wood took the kickoff almost all the way back, with only a tackle by Michael Willis saving a score. For two plays.

And that’s why the game is tied at 14 at intermission.

••••••••••

The key for WSU in the second half: Don’t give up the big play. The Huskies aren’t going to march 80 yards to score. They don’t have the offense to sustain a long drive.

The key for UW: Keep doing what they have been doing. Take chances down the field when possible, play field position when it isn’t.

••••••••••

The Husky marching band has more drum majors than my high school band had musicians.

UW at WSU: Pregame V

APPLE CUP

One last pregame note: High schools aren’t the only ones to have a Senior Day. The families and special friends of the seniors are gathered at the west 35-yard line, greeting their sons as they come out of the tunnel.

There are very few things in sports that are more emotional than this.

By the way, they introduced president Lane Rawlins as No. 1. The longtime school president is heading into retirement.

••••••••••

The Huskies brought injured quarterback Isaiah Stanback out - on crutches - for the coin flip. Nice touch.

UW at WSU: Pregame III

APPLE CUP

It’s confession time.

This is the first Apple Cup I’ve watched in person.

Over the past 20-plus years, I haven’t missed a televised Cup, but in person … sorry, I’ve never made the trip.

So far it hasn’t been what I expected.

The Husky fans walked around campus have been treated respectively. Unlike what happens to the visitors at UCLA-USC games, the only Pac-10 rivalry game I’ve ever attended.

Both times I went to Coliseum for that game, I saw: fistfights, a car window broken, and water tossed on a baby-blue wearing fan.

But as I walked around the campus prior to entering the stadium, I was impressed by the etiquette shown by Cougar fans toward their purple-attired counterparts. Being ignored is not a bad thing when you are a Husky in Cougar country.

I’m sure the behavior changes as the game nears completion and night descends. The fans of the winners will gloat, the losers sulk and the intersection of the two might not be as civil.

We’ll see.

More than Lake City’s big win

PREPS

As we linked to last night, Lake City won the Idaho 5A state football title with a second-half surge that buried Highland of Pocatello.

But that wasn’t the only game going on Friday night.

There were a couple of state semifinal girls soccer matches, but both Spokane schools came up a little short. Cheney lost to Cedarcrest 3-1 in the state 2A playoffs, and Mead dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker to Stanwood.

There was one local soccer winner as Northwest Christian stopped previously undefeated Moses Lake Christian 1-0 to advance to the 2B/1B boys final against Bear Creek of Redmond.

There was one big defeat in football as Reardan, ranked No. 1 all year in the 2B ranks, lost to undefeated LaSalle, 32-14 in Yakima.

Pirates try to move on in Division III playoffs

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Whitworth is about ready to kick off one of the Pirates (10-0) most important games in the 100 years they’ve been playing football.

As Steve Bergum points out in his advance, the Pirates opponent, Occidental College, isn’t a pushover. The Tigers are undefeated as well, and have won their last 25 regular season games.

So today’s (noon; 1230-AM) NCAA Division III game at the Pine Bowl could be a close, tough matchup.

••••••••••

The Idaho Vandals are out of town (2 p.m.; 1080-AM) to face fallen-on-hard-times Fresno State. But, as Jim Meehan points out in today’s story, the Vandals season has been an unpredictable one.

Check Jim’s Vandal blog after the game for a score and links to a game story.

Lake City wins Idaho state 5A title

PREPS

The Lake City Timberwolves were only tested once this year, and it wasn’t in the state finals against perennial power Highland of Pocatello. The T-Wolves won 35-6 to earn their second state football crown and first since 2002.

There will be more in the S-R in the morning, plus Greg Lee’s Idaho Prep Sports blog.

Highland has played in every 5A state final except one since 1995. The Rams have won eight state titles.

And if you’re wondering who tested LC? It was city rival Coeur d’Alene in the league game between the two.

What do you think about LC’s win?

The surprise is there are not more of these stories

SEAHAWKS

With the Hawks facing the 49ers on Sunday, there are two stories available in the “player-faces-former-team” category.

The first comes out of Seattle, where Julian Peterson will go up against the team he left in free agency. The other story is out of San Francisco by way of Tacoma, where former Seahawks quarterback Trent Dilfer, a backup, is expected to help the 49ers decipher Mike Holmgren’s game plan.

Both stories are interesting, but really, the NFL is a business, a complicated business. Peterson leaving San Francisco was a business decision, just that. If he needs more motivation for playing Sunday, how about the Hawks need a win if they want to stay in the NFC’s home-field hunt. And if Dilfer, who last played in Seattle in 2004, has information that can help the 49ers, shame of the Seahawks. Things should have changed a lot by then.

Morrison in his own words

MORRISON WATCH

Want to listen to an Adam Morrison interview?

You can find one here on AOL’s Mr. Irrelevant blogger site. It’s part of his plugging of March Madness 2007 for EA Sports. Just follow the link.

Morrison’s big game against the Spurs is even more impressive because he was guarded by San Antonio’s Bruce Bowen, one of the best defenders in the NBA.

Pfeifer earns first UI win

VANDALS, EAGLES, ZAGS

The University of Idaho got its first win under new coach George Pfeifer – but the Vandals had to go all the way to Brookings, S.D. to get it.

And it took 26 points from Keoni Watson and a second-half rally to get past South Dakota State.

There is more, as usual, on Jim Meehan’s Idaho blog.

••••••••••

Speaking of basketball, WSU takes a 3-0 record into tonight’s home game against Texas-San Antonio (8:30; KXLY 920-AM).

The Jackrabbits (1-1) are in the Inland Northwest for two games, and they will face Gonzaga (3-0) on Sunday (5 p.m.; KAYU, FSN TV; KGA 1510-AM).

The Zag women routed Sacramento State 84-43 Thursday night behind the 22 points from transfer Michelle Elliot. The Hornets face Washington State tonight prior to the men’s game. The GU women travel to Montana on Sunday.

You can find more GU news on Steve Bergum’s blog.

••••••••••

The Eastern volleyball team is still alive in the Big Sky Tournament. The Eagles will play Portland State tonight.

There’s always more on Dave Trimmer’s blog.

And the winner would be … Lake City

PREPS

So who would win if Lake City and Gonzaga Prep played?

We had a lot of fun with the mythical matchup this week, with more comments than we’ve ever received here for one subject, and more than 300 votes on our poll – even more than our Apple Cup question.

You got your chance to give your opinions, and, except for a couple, they were civil, intelligent and enthusiastic. Thanks for chiming in. It was fun. But now it’s my turn.

So who would win?

I’ve seen Prep play twice this year and Lake City once. I’ve talked with a lot of football coaches whose opinion I respect. I’ve looked at the stats and the scores.

And I believe … OK. I was going to write this line about if they played 10 times yadda, yadda, yadda, but that’s a cop out. I was going to go into turnovers and crud, but that’s just a bunch of bunk. It’s a mythical game any how, and they’re never going to play so …

Lake City would win.

Simple as that. This is the best Lake City team ever, no matter what happens tonight in the state title game (see Greg Lee’s preview here), and this G-Prep team, as good as it is, isn’t even the best Prep team of the past three years (no matter what happens over the next three weeks). And, yes coach Carson, you’re welcome for the motivational material.

Not to take anything away from another Prep title, but the GSL was down this year and there’s not a coach in the league that will honestly tell you different. The Prep team of two years ago, with Brandon Kennedy, Billy Karwacki, Connor Hare and the rest, was as good a GSL team as I’ve seen in about a decade and won a much tougher league. That team was the best 4A team in Washington and, but for one bad bounce, would have won the state title. This team is just as strong up front (maybe stronger), but doesn’t have the speed, especially at the corners and receiver, that group had.

And that’s why I believe Lake City would win. The T-Wolves can match up with Prep up front – as no one in the GSL could – plus they have the speed to attack downfield, and to run down the Prep offensive backs.

It would be a battle alright, one that any prep football fan would have liked to see – if they played it at Albi, 10,000 people might have shown up – but, in the end LC would prevail. Now, against the Prep team from 2004? That would be an even better game. Mythically, of course.

And the winner would be …

PREPS

Don’t forget to register your opinion on the mythical high school game of the season: Lake City vs. Gonzaga Prep. Just click here, read the post and then tell us what you think.

We also have a poll question where, if you don’t want to share your thoughts, you can still share your opinion. Just click here for the poll.

But we would really like to hear your views as well. We have, however, already had to eliminate one post that was demeaning to one team. There’s no need to belittle one to make your case for the other. Thanks.

Morrison’s performances changing minds

MORRISON WATCH

Can you hear it?

The shoes squeaking from all the backtracking from the so-called experts who were all over Adam Morrison for his shooting.

By hitting 21 of his last 41 shots, Morrison has put that to rest for a while. But, even more importantly, he played 48 minutes last night and the Bobcats won a game. On the road. Against one of the NBA powers – the San Antonio Spurs.

Checking the stories, here’s one from the San Antonio Express News. Check out Spurs coach Greg Popovich’s quote about Morrison near the bottom of story.

Morrison told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer his big game (27 points) was the result of a change in how he attacked, putting the ball on the floor more and shooting off the dribble.

Off the beaten path: This blog entry is typical of NBA bloggers and their feelings about Morrison.

It’s time for Hawk fans to get some good news

SEAHAWKS

The injury news the past few weeks has all been bad for Hawk fans.

So it’s about time for some good news on that front. Here it is.

Shaun Alexander is practicing, and could – or should – play this week. Here are the stories from the Times, the P-I, the News Tribune and the Everett Herald.

Now back to reality. The other big injured Hawk, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, is still a ways away from playing. That’s part of the news in this Times’ notebook. His backup and now starter Seneca Wallace, earned a contract extension thanks to his play.

The sickest member of the Hawks? Coach Mike Holmgren, who is sick of the whole injury mess, according to the News Tribune’s Dave Boling. And Julian Peterson is looking forward to facing his former team.

Apple Cup is bigger than any one thought

APPLE CUP

OK, don’t try to be cute, just get to it. There is so much out there about the AC, don’t screw it up. Just give them the stories, the notes, the information. And don’t forget to link to Glenn’s blog, there’s a bunch more stuff there.

The above paragraph is what went through my mind this morning. Of course, so did thoughts about the bills I have to pay today, the little bump on my arm that seems to be getting bigger, how the dog can bend that way and when will the darn kid call. I ignored those too.

But here’s the Apple Cup stuff – and in the third paragraph!

Where did the Cougar running game disappear to? Glenn Kasses tries to find it in today’s story, without much success. He also found time to write about UW quarterback Carl Bonnell, a former Cougar (on his blog Glenn muses about the ramifications if Bonnell had stayed in Pullman). There is also a Bonnell story in the P-I.

And don’t forget to vote in our Apple Cup poll. Who do you think will win?

Still a lot of questions about the Zags

GONZAGA

So what do you think now?

I’m sure if you are reading this you saw GU play Wednesday night either in person or on TV. If not Wednesday night, then some time in the Zags’ first three games.

What do you think?

Even though Baylor exposed some of this group’s weaknesses – depth inside, the up-and-down performances of young players, perimeter defense – the Zags dug out a 78-69 win basically on the strength of their defense and balance.

Even with new scoring focus Josh Heytvelt struggling his way to a 4-for-11 night from the field, even with Derek Raivio having the same stat line, GU still hit 54 percent of its shots.

Because everyone else was above 50 percent from the floor. Jeremy Pargo, 4 of 6. Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes, 5 of 7. Sean Mallon, 4 of 8. Reserves Abdullahi Kuso (coach Mark Few’s pick for his team’s MVP Wednesday) and David Pendergraft, perfect on four shots.

What do you think of such shooting?

And the line? The Zags were 26 of 32. And 81 percent is about all a coach could ask for.

Baylor’s Scott Drew would have taken half that from the field. The Zags held his team to 25 percent shooting in the first half and 36 percent for the game – which is better than Rice shot on Tuesday night against GU (29 percent).

“We couldn’t put the ball in the ocean,” is how Drew described his team’s shooting, but the ocean doesn’t play defense – unless it’s a hurricane.

The Zags aren’t that impressive defensively yet, but they are closer than they were last year.

“I thought we played three really good halves of basketball these last two days,” Few said. “By and large, I was really pleased with our defense the whole tournament here.”

And it’s going to take a well disciplined, strong, tall, athletic bunch to shoot well against them. Just like North Carolina, GU’s opponent next Wednesday in the New York semifinals of the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off.

What do you think of that?

The Tar Heels, ranked second in the nation, rallied from a halftime deficit to stop Winthrop 73-66 and move on to New York, where they’ll represent by far GU’s biggest challenge of the season.

“If you’re a basketball player, that’s what you live for,” said Raivio, who still scored a game-high 18 points Wednesday, thanks to a 10-for-10 night at the line, “a big game on a big stage.”

Not that the Arena is a small stage. It’s just not Madison Square Garden and a national television audience.

Will the still-awfully-young Zags be able to perform in front of the bright lights? Or will they look like the deer we’ve all been seeing lying beside our local roads?

What do you think?

“I think as coach said earlier, there are a lot of questions that people had about this team,” said Alitidor-Cespedes. “I think it’s a learning process from now on, but, if we keep the right attitude, I think this team has the potential to be as good as any team we’ve had here.”

Not even Few is sure yet what type of team this is, I’m guessing. But he wants to find out.

“It’s a great opportunity especially for such a young, unproven group, to come in here and win two games against two very good teams,” he said. “To play in the semis of the NIT, that’s as good as it gets.

“Now the challenge is to go there and to continue to play the way we have been playing.”

An opportunity. A challenge. A trip to New York.

What do you think?

Shot returns for Morrison but Bobcats still floundering

MORRISON WATCH UPDATED: 10:05 P.M.

As the third draft pick in the NBA draft, and Charlotte’s top choice, everything Adam Morrison does will be scrutinized, especially in the Charlotte media.

So when he went through a recent shooting slump, Morrison was the topic of conversation in the Charlotte Observer. Beat writer Rick Bonnell wrote that other teams weren’t respecting Morrison’s shooting and it showed in the rookie’s free-throw stats.

After that story ran in the Observer on Tuesday, Morrison went out and had one of his better games as a pro, hitting 9 of 17 shots en route to a career-high-tying 21 points.

Morrison always could find a source of motivation - and way to bounce back.

UPDATE: Morrison scored a career-high 27 points as the Bobcats surprised San Antonio in Texas. Morrison hit 12 of 23 shots and is officially out of his shooting slump.

More from the NIT - and a possible future Zag

GONZAGA

You can find my column from last night’s game along with links to the S-R stories at this post, but there were other stories from the Arena last night, so I thought I would link to them.

But before I do, don’t forget we will cover tonight’s NIT West Region title game the same way as the first round - with a story on the S-R sports website as soon as the game is over (we’ll link to it here) and commentary about the game right after that. Click in and check it out.

Bud Withers of the Seattle Times was in town and he filed this piece on the rout of Rice.

And here is the Associated Press story that ran in the News Tribune.

There is also this piece for all of you who look to the future more than stay in the present. Luke Babbitt is considered one of the better high school juniors on the West Coast.

WSU has a chance to do something special

APPLE CUP

Say it with me.

Three in a row. Three consecutive. Three straight.

No matter how you say it, it’s never been done by Washington State. Never.

Glenn Kasses examines the Cougars lack of true Apple Cup winning streak in today’s S-R, along with their knowledge that, for a sure bowl date, they’ll have to do something historic.

Like win a third consecutive Apple Cup. (If you didn’t know – or were a Husky fan and wiped it from your memory – WSU has won the last two Cups.)

Well, as my gramma used to say, “99th time is the charm.”

But it doesn’t matter how good the Apple Cup is – say 45-44 in quadruple overtime all the while snow falling – there are other games Saturday that will grab a majority of ESPN highlight time. There’s a little one in Columbus, Ohio between Ohio State and Michigan (I think they’re both ranked), and then there’s the one in Los Angeles with a little bit of interest for Pac-10 fans.

Cal and USC meet, with the conference title and USC’s hopes for another national on the line. Cal choked off its national hopes last Saturday in Tucson.

Away from the Apple Cup hype and pressure, Oak Harbor High quarterback Marshall Lobbestael verbally committed to WSU on Tuesday.

Don’t forget to check Glenn’s blog for more Apple Cup news.

Baylor will play in NIT West Regional final

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

You can find the game story of Baylor’s 87-82 double overtime win over Colorado State in the first preseason NIT game at the Arena here.

Because of the length of the first game, the second game will start late.

So who would win: Lake City or Gonzaga Prep?

PREPS

I would like you to chew this over a while this week and give us your opinion.

The question is simple, but the answer is hard to really prove. But take your best shot.

There are two big-school football teams in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area still playing: Spokane’s Gonzaga Prep and CdA’s Lake City.

If they met, who would win? And why?

Simple huh? Well, not really. Both are excellent teams from excellent programs with excellent coaching staffs.

Both have senior leadership, both have size and speed, both are undefeated on the field.

But they won’t meet. LC is playing for the Idaho State 5A title Friday night in the Kibbie Dome and the season is over. G-Prep plays a Washington State 4A quarterfinal game Saturday at home, hoping the season continues at least another week.

As you ponder your answer, consider these facts:

• Lake City is 11-0 and has outscored its opponents 459-169.
• The Timberwolves have scored more than 50 points three times, more than 40 seven times.
• In their two playoff games, they have yielded just 14 points.
• The closest game was against archrival Coeur d’Alene, a 20-18 regular season decision in which LC committed enough penalties to keep Al Davis happy. The next time the teams met, LC won 48-7.
• Gonzaga Prep is 11-0 on the field (the Pups’ lone loss was a forfeit for using an ineligible player for a few fourth-quarter plays in a 47-7 blowout at Bellarmine Prep).
• The Pups have outscored their opponents 362-101.
• They have scored more than 40 points twice and more than 30 seven times.
• The defense has yielded more than 10 points only twice, has a shutout and has limited the opposition to a single score six other times.
• The teams have two common opponents: Lake City defeated Central Valley in a non-league game 55-14 at CV, Gonzaga Prep beat the Bears 37-14 in a GSL game at home; Lake City defeated Moses Lake 38-21 in a non-league game in Moses Lake, G-Prep stopped Moses Lake 32-26 last week in overtime at G-Prep in a state playoff game (one other piece of information about the Moses Lake games: ML’s WSU-bound lineman BJ Guerra only played part of the LC game due to injury, he was on the field all the time last weekend).

Armed with that information, and your own feelings and intuitions, click the comments link and tell us which team you think would win. Give a final score and some imagined highlights if you want. Be positive toward your team of choice and don’t demean the other, it’s not necessary.

All I know is, if the two would play, it would be an excellent game.

When I go through your comments on Friday, I’ll give you my opinion.

Pressure, and injuries, build for WSU

APPLE CUP

For a game that features one team playing out the string (UW) and another limping – literally – to the finish (WSU), this Apple Cup has a lot of interesting subplots.

There’s the pressure under which the Cougars are now. As Glenn Kasses writes, three weeks ago all the Cougs needed to do to ensure a bowl game was win one of their final three games. All they need to do two weeks late is … the same thing.

And if that’s not hard enough – winning a pressure-packed Apple Cup is hard without any other baggage – there are more injuries to worry about, including a broken wrist suffered by linebacker Scott Davis.

New rankings out and Zags still left out

GONZAGA

The Zags are still unranked in the polls, with GU 26th in the coaches’ poll, and 27th in the Associated Press writers’ poll.

There are five teams on the GU schedule who received votes in the AP poll this week, including top 25 teams Duke, Memphis, Washington and Nevada.

GM meetings kick off Hot Stove League

BASEBALL

The general managers are meeting this week in Florida, which is usually a week filled with news.

So let’s kick it off with some Mariners news.

Gil Meche is no longer a Mariner, after he filed for free agency Sunday. But read deeper into the story. There is news about a Japanese pitching prospect the M’s are interested in.

The meetings have changed over the past 50 years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the GMs all talk and the foundation of future trades and signings are built.

Huskies have a Stanford hangover

HUSKIES

This will be the final time this week we will write UW by itself.

For the remainder of Apple Cup week we’ll put the Cougar and Husky entries under the Apple Cup label.

But the West Side lamenting of Saturday’s loss to Stanford has to have its own entry.

In Bob Condotta’s story in the Seattle Times, there is this paragraph: The Stanford defeat was judged by longtime observers as among the most humiliating at home in school history, considering the feebleness of the Cardinal entering the game. It might be considered worse than the 1985 defeat to Oregon State and the 2003 loss to Nevada.

Ouch.

Then there’s the paper’s game replay.

Could it be that all Stanford did was expose the truth about the Huskies’ offense, that UW doesn’t have the team speed to attack opponent’s weaknesses? That’s the point of this P-I story.

Mike Allende of the Everett Herald can’t believe anyone is excited about an Apple Cup between these two teams. His analysis is pointed toward Husky fans who must find a reason to drive to Pullman on Saturday.

I’m sorry, but it doesn’t matter. It is the Apple Cup and that’s enough to get Dawgs and Cougs excited. The fans will find the motivation.

A pick that might actually be right

PREPS

Late in August, before the season even started, I picked the Lake City Timberwolves to win the Idaho 5A football title. It’s the one good pick I made all year.

Now the top-ranked T-Wolves (11-0) have to win one more game to fulfill that not-so-bold prediction. And it will come against the second-ranked team in the state, Highland of Pocatello (10-1) on Friday night at 7 in the Kibbie Dome.

Greg Lee has a look back at LC’s semifinal win and a look ahead to Friday. He also has more on his Idaho Prep blog.

The Gonzaga Prep Bullpups (10-1) have moved on to Washington’s state 4A quarterfinals, and will host Eastlake (9-2) at G-Prep on Saturday at 1 p.m. Mike Vlahovich’s examines the Spokane connection for Eastlake and looks back at last weekend’s games. He also has more on his Prep Report blog.

Around the state, Rene Ferran looks back at the weekend football in the mid-Columbia area on his blog post, and finishes by taking the Columbia Basin League coaches to task for diluting the all-league honor (20 of 28 starting CBL 4A defensive backs earned some honor). Attaboy. When did special recognition for the best quit being special?

The Bellingham Herald also looked back at the weekend with special attention given to Lynden’s offensive line.

NIT starts Tuesday as Zags win over EWU earns national attention

GONZAGA BASKETBALL

The Bulldogs will try to earn a ticket to New York and the semifinals of the preseason National Invitational Tournament starting Tuesday night (9 p.m.) in the Spokane Arena.

The Zags open against Rice, which finished 12-18 last season but returns forward Morris Almond, who averaged almost 22 points a game last season.

The other two teams in the Spokane pod are Baylor and Colorado State. They will play at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Winners meet on Wednesday at 9 p.m., with losers at 6 p.m.

Here is a link to a summary of the three visiting teams.

The Sporting News Mike DeCourcy taped the Zags win over Eastern Washington to watch later. And when he did, he was impressed, especially by the performances of Matt Bouldin and Josh Heytvelt.

The Zags are ranked 25th by the Providence Journal and Almond is one of the paper’s best players no one knows.

As always, check Steve Bergum’s blog for more information.

Struggles continue for Morrison

MORRISON WATCH

It wasn’t Adam Morrison’s best night.

The rookie from Gonzaga took just eight shots in the Bobcats’ 108-101 loss to Denver. He made one, and finished with two points.

Here’s a link to the Associated Press story which is from the Rocky Mountain News.

Follow the full entry link to the box score.

Mead’s feat tops an unmatched fall prep season

PREPS

Four consecutive big-school team titles.

It happened twice this fall to Spokane-area schools. Last weekend it was the Ferris boys cross country team. This weekend the Mead girls volleyball team.

And Saturday, Mead’s feat was something that had never been done before in state volleyball, a big school winning four titles in a row.

But the Panthers weren’t the only area winners. Colfax topped Lakeside in the 1A title match for a third consecutive crown – and the Bulldogs’ seventh overall. In the 2B ranks, La Conner finished its season perect while Sprague-Harrington won the 1B title.

In soccer, Mead handed Richland its first loss of the season and the Panthers moved into the state semifinals next weekend.

And the area had some football success, with Colville moving on in the state playoffs.

There were some area losses, of course, including Idaho’s Timberlake and Mullanand Washington’s Lakeside.

This last note: girls basketball began in North Idaho.

Cougars get nothing done in the desert

COUGARS

Tough for me to say much more after last night.

But what I thought was funny, in a strange sort of way, was radio commentator Jim Walden hit the keys to the game right on the helmet. Only problem was, each key he described – the WSU offensive line had to get some push up front, for example – was important because the Cougs didn’t get it done.

Glenn Kasses was in the Valley of the Sun, and here’s his game story about the debacle. He also filed a notebook, stats, how they scored and his game grades, including the first F I’ve seen him give, this to the Cougar secondary.

He also will have more on his blog.

For the Cougars to ensure a bowl bid, after losing Saturday night, they’ll have to win the Apple Cup. And, as the News Tribune’s Todd Milles points out, that would mean three consecutive Apple Cup wins, something WSU has never done. And, as usual, a ticked off Husky team will be there too.

The loss blindsided coach Bill Doba, which is kickoff off to Craig Smith’s story in the Times. He also had a notebook.

WSU at ASU: Fourth Quarter I

COUGARS

Scott Davis (pictured; Spokesman-Review photo by Christopher Anderson) is out, to have an injured wrist re-examined in Pullman. The defense is being pushed around. The offense is sputtering. The special teams have had little to cheer about.

And Ainsworth just tacked on his fourth field goal, a 32-yarder early in the final quarter to make it 40-14.

We’ll be back at the end of the game with a short commentary - what is there to say, really? - but until then unless something big happens we’re slowing down.

Just like WSU’s season.

WALDENISM: “…at the same time the left tackle was tacklin’ Mkristo Bruce right in front of the official … and no call. My word.”

WSU at ASU: Third Quarter II

COUGARS

Sixty-two yards and another Rudy Carpenter touchdown pass. This one goes to Littrele Jones and pumps the ASU lead back to 23 points, 37-14. The 79 yard drive only took a little more than 2 minutes.

Then came back-to-back interceptions thrown by Brink and Carpenter, which ended up gaining about 30 yards for WSU.

Add to that a personal foul penalty and the Cougars had every chance to score a much-needed touchdown. But Brink is intercepted inside the 5-yard line by Jeremy Payton and the drive is over.

WALDENISM: “Watch the screen. Dirk Koetter loves the the third-down screen. I don’t know which one, but he loves the screen on third down.” Carpenter then went deep down the middle for 20 yards.

WSU at ASU: Halftime

COUGARS

A punt. No, wait, a fake punt. And it works. It’s another Sun Devil first down.

They don’t even send the punter out, they use Carpenter, the quarterback. And he hits Zach Miller for 12 yards for a first down.

From there a 15-yard penalty helps the Sun Devils move deep into Coug territory. And Ainsworth adds another career-long field goal, this one from 47 yards out. It’s 30-7 at halftime and it looks like the Cougs will have to win the Apple Cup if they want to make sure they play somewhere warm in December.

WALDENISM: “The quarterback was back in the punter position and we still let him complete it. … I don’t know.”

WSU at ASU: Second Quarter II

COUGARS

One of Walden’s keys had to do with the kicking game. He felt the Cougs couldn’t afford any negative plays in that phase of the game.

So now they get a 20-yard punt from Blunt.

The Sun Devils have good field position again.

WALDENISM: “They’re feeling their oats. Everytime they make a stop they do their Arnold Schwarzenegger, or whatever you do when you raise your arms like your lifting weights or something.”

WSU at ASU: End of First Quarter

COUGARS

The stats are one-sided with ASU having the heavier side. ASU has 180 yards of total offense; the Cougs 33. Passing yards for ASU: 130; for WSU 28.

It’s lucky for WSU it has seven points. The Sun Devils aren’t stopping either, hitting a big pass to start the second quarter.

Aaron Johnson is hurt and won’t play anymore tonight. And Mkristo Bruce just limped off.

WALDENISM: “They’re mugging our defensive ends.”

WSU at ASU: First Quarter III

COUGARS

The Sun Devils jumped back on top with a 35-yard field goal from Jesse Ainsworth, his longest field goal of the season.

And we thought Loren Langley didn’t have a big leg. At least he has a 39-yarder.

It’s 10-7 ASU with a little more than 5 minutes left.

WALDENISM: “The fans are booing, what few hundred are here.” The crowd must be pretty small.

By the way, UCLA defeated Oregon State 25-7. I’ve still got a shot at being wrong in every Pac-10 game.

WSU at ASU: First Quarter I

COUGARS

When talking about the keys for the Cougars today, former WSU coach Jim Walden emphasized the Cougs couldn’t give up the big play.

On the first drive, they gave up two. There were, in order, a 34-yard pass from Rudy Carpenter to Brent Miller and a 21-yard pass from Carpenter to Zach Miller. The drive took just five plays, covered 66 yards and took a little more than a minute. 7-0 ASU.

WALDENISM: When ASU returner Grant Crunkleton tripped and fell on his 34-yard return, Walden said: “He was a victim of his own tackleization.”

Eastern finishes season by winning easily

EAGLES UPDATED: 5:35 P.M.

Eastern Washington snapped a late-season three-game losing streak by routing Idaho State 40-6 in Cheney on Saturday. Here is the Associated Press game story on The Spokesman-Review’s sports web page.

Matt Nichols passed for one touchdown and threw for another in the Eastern win. EWU finishes the season 3-8, 3-5 in the Big Sky Conference.

The Eagles outscored the Bengals (2-8, 1-6) 24-0 in the second half.

Whitworth finishes a perfect regular season

COLLEGE FOOTBALL UPDATED: 4:25 P.M.

Whitworth will try to clinch home field for the NCAA Division III football playoffs during the Pirates game with the University of Puget Sound (12:30 p.m.; 1230-AM). UPDATE: The Pirates won 44-27, completing a 10-0 regular season. They’ll find out who they’ll play in the NCAA Division III playoffs soon.

Eastern Washington is finishing its season by hosting Idaho State (2 p.m.; 1510-AM).

And the Huskies will try to snap a five-game losing streak when they host the Pac-10’s worst team, Stanford (12:30 p.m.; no TV or radio). UPDATE: The Huskies made it six in a row with a, believe it or not, 20-3 loss to Stanford. Here is an Associated Press story.

Preps from A to Z

PREPS

Wow.

I honestly don’t think I can get to all the prep news this morning without overloading my brain and computer.

From Gonzaga Prep advancing in the 4A football playoffs with an overtime win - the web version has seemed to disappear – over Moses Lake and Lake City routing Meridian in Idaho’s 5A tournament to Isaiah Thomas possibly leaving Curtis High in an attempt to improve his academics, there was news galore in the preps from last night.

Don’t forget to check Greg Lee’s Idaho blog and Mike Vlahovich’s Prep Report blog for more news.

Let’s get to the rest …

Zags answer a lot of questions against EWU

GONZAGA, EASTERN

When GU coach Mark Few walked into the Arena tonight, two small boys in tow, the security guard stopped him.

“Welcome guys,” the guard said. “Who are you with?”

After Few explained he was the Gonzaga mens basketball coach, the guard stepped aside. But the question remained.

Who was Few with? What type of team would he put on the McCarthey Athletic Center court Friday night? And who would survive the intra-county brawl with Eastern Washington University?

The answers came pretty early in the Zags’ 90-75 win over the Eagles. About 10 minutes in, in fact. That’s when the Bulldogs went on a 16-2 run, effectively destroying EWU’s chance to break its long losing streak to GU (at 21 consecutive games with no end in sight).

But the run was not an aberration. It was the norm for a Gonzaga team that is looking for an identity. And it looks like they may have been perusing the old Jeff Brown-era team pictures for a clue.

Limping Hawks aren’t much different than last year’s model

SEAHAWKS

Seattle is 5-3 and atop the NFC West. The Seahawks have suffered numerous injuries and some bad defeats. They have overcome long odds and won a couple of games relatively easily.

So it’s time for the midseason report cards from the News Tribune and the Times. Both give the team passing grades, but don’t award them Summa Cum Laude status.

The P-I also looks at the Hawks at the halfway point, but doesn’t give grades.

The Everett Herald doesn’t do the midseason thing, instead Scott Johnson looks at the sack attack of last week and whether it can continue against the Rams on Sunday (1:15 p.m.; KAYU). Johnson also looks at the big payday Seneca Wallace (pictured talking with coach Mike Holmgren; Associated Press photo) may receive at the end of the year if he continues to play well.

By the way, last year at this time a relatively healthy Seahawks team was 6-2, having won four consecutive games.

Big stretch begins tonight for Chiefs

CHIEFS, WHL

The Spokane Chiefs enter the key home stretch of the season, with five consecutive home games on the schedule starting tonight (7 p.m.; 790-AM) with Red Deer.

Why is this stretch so important? Jeff Bunch explains how the next 12 games may decide if the Chiefs will make the WHL playoffs.

Jeff Bunch has more on his Chiefs blog.

••••••••••

The Times has its WHL notebook today, with a profile of Seattle Thunderbirds defenseman Bretton Stamler.

The Tri-City Americans have a personal house of horrors, according to Tri-City Herald writer Annie Fowler. The place? The Cranbrook Recreation Complex, home of the Kootenay Ice.

A Mountain View High sophomore plays for the Portland Winter Hawks and he hopes for more playing time.

Season - and careers - winds down

EAGLES, VANDALS FOOTBALL

As the Eagles’ season wind down, the careers of the EWU seniors near an end as well.

Dave Trimmer recounts the journey of senior offensive lineman Harrison Nikolao, who came to Cheney without a scholarship and leaves a two-way starter (over his career).

There’s more on both the Eagles and Vandals on Dave’s blog and Jim Meehan’s Idaho blog.

The B word (bowls) is on the Cougs’ mind

COUGARS, COLLEGE FOOTBALL

No matter what college football players say publicly, you know privately they are talking about bowl games. And the Cougars are no different, as Dwight Tardy admitted this morning in Glenn Kasses’ story.

Where will we go? Who will we play? What will I get? Who’s that woman? OK, that last one is on their mind all year long – but the others are bowl specific, and Glenn examines such things in his story and on his blog.

••••••••••

Before we get back to WSU, let’s examine the biggest game in college football history – well at least last night. Rutgers upset of Louisville threw the BCS into turmoil. Because the game finished so late last night, there is little in the way of analysis of what the Scarlet Knight’s win means, but that will be all over the place tomorrow.

And, speaking of bowls (as we were above), USA Today looks at all the bowl bubble teams, including UW but not WSU. The Huskies need to defeat Stanford on Saturday to make the Apple Cup mean something bowl-wise, and Jim Moore tells us 10 reasons why UW won’t win.

Bobcats lose in overtime as season wears on

MORRISON WATCH

The newness is wearing off. The grind that is the NBA schedule is starting to sink in.

And the Morrison Watch has slowed down.

Last night, Morrison scored 12 points (on 2 of 11 from the floor and 8 of 11 from the line) in an 110-108 overtime defeat in Boston, with the game critiqued in the Boston papers here and here.

Morrison didn’t have his best shooting game (see stats above) but he did play almost 36 minutes (third high on team) and only had a single turnover – and he balanced that with a steal and a block.

He also surprised the Observer’s Rick Bonnell by chewing tobacco after the game. Heck, he’s from Spokane – where I’ve seen many teens chewing – and he’s in North Carolina – tobacco’s home court.

The Bobcats’ next game is Friday night against the Sonics, who lost another heartbreaker Wednesday. The game will be on TV at 4, so you can watch Morrison for an hour, then switch over to the GU/Eastern game at 5.

Nike tries to change summer youth basketball

MISCELLANEOUS

A couple of Oregonian stories worth checking out:

Nike has unveiled a new model for summer youth basketball, one that will change how the summer season is run.

Why? Because Nike has so much power and influence among the club coaches in this country.

Keep your eyes and ears open about this change. It will affect your kids and/or grandkids.

••••••••••

The Oregon women’s soccer team was passed over by the NCAA – like WSU – but the Ducks, who finished second in the Pac-10, suffered the worst injustice in the sport this season. The NCAA gave its reasons here.

Local athletes spark Whitworth’s success

PIRATES

Whitworth’s football team is one win away from a perfect regular season. The Pirates have already defeated Linfield for the first time since 1975, have won nine games to start the year for the first time and have clinched at least a tie for the Northwest Conference title.

And a big part of the success is a large contingent of players from the Greater Spokane League.

The group, as documented in Steve Bergum’s story, is led by quarterback Joel Clark (Mt. Spokane) and linebacker Casey Clifton (University). But there are many, many more key players from the Spokane league.

The eighth-ranked Pirates host Puget Sound on Saturday (12:30 p.m.; 1230-AM) with a chance to raise their record to 10-0.

It’s Thursday, just one day from football

PREPS

If you watch ESPN at all, you can’t avoid those unrelenting Monday Night Football promos. You know the ones I mean, the insipid, “Wednesday, it’s hard to spell and it’s football limbo because it’s 324 days to Monday …” ads.

Well, I’m not about to let ESPN be the only media outlet that drives you insane with promos. That’s my job too. So let’s get to it. (And read this with a deep voice please.)

“Thursday, prep page day. The day to plan your prep weekend. Sure, ‘Friends’ is no longer on (except only every night in syndication), but it’s only one day to Friday, prep football day.”

The lead piece in the S-R’s Idaho Prep Page concerns the Lake City football team’s defense, which has been almost unbreakable this season. The prep profile is on Timberlake’s Scott Holbrook, the Intermountain League’s lineman of the year. And the Quick Hits includes all league teams.

The Washington page leads with a feature about Gonzaga Prep’s defensive front, which has been nearly unbreakable this season (notice a trend here?). The Prep Profile is about Kayla Newberg and her Riverside High volleyball team. Mike Vlahovich’s column looks back on a fall prep season filled with success for the area’s teams and players. And then there is Quick Hits, which examines the upcoming girls’ state swimming meet.

Don’t forget to check out Greg Lee’s blog and Mike’s Prep Report blog.

Moving on up

LETTERS OF INTENT UPDATED 6 P.M.; 6:10

If you’re wondering where your favorite high school athletes are going to college, or how who decided to attend your favorite college, we’ll try to keep you updated.

Listed below are players who have signed with colleges by school, with links to the official releases.

Men
EWU: The Eagles signed three players, including 6-foot-10 post Nathan Lozeau from Marysville, Wash.

Gonzaga: Four players have or will sign, including 6-10 Austin Daye from Irvine, Calif., and Steven Gray from Bainbridge, Wash. UPDATE … Here is the list of GU signees.

Washington: The Huskies signed two players, none from the state.

UPDATE … WSU: The Cougars announced one signee, Abe Lodwick from Oregon.

Women
EWU: Two players have signed, including Kyla Evans, a 5-11 guard from Brewster, Wash.

UPDATE … GU: The Zags signed two players from Washington, 5-11 forward Claire Rapp from Prosser and Courtney Vandersloot, a 5-8 point guard from Kentwood. Vandersloot, who I saw a lot last spring and summer, is special.

UPDATE … IDAHO: The Vandals signed two players from outside the area.

UPDATE No. 2 … WASHINGTON: The Huskies signed six players, including Lewis and Clark’s Katelan Redmon.

UPDATE … WSU: The Cougars have signed Katie Calderwood, a 6-foot guard from Colorado.

UPDATE No. 2 … TENNESSEE: Angie Bjorklund joins the best recruiting class in the nation.

Chiefs improve power play, record

CHIEFS, WHL

Spokane has rallied a little lately, moving ahead of Seattle for third place in the U.S. Division of the Western Hockey League with its victory at Portland last night.

The key for the Chiefs is improved power-play production, scoring three times in the 5-2 win over Portland.

The Chiefs play at Kelowna tonight (7 p.m.; 790-AM).

••••••••••

Everett has won nine consecutive games, including four in a row on a six-game East Division road trip.

Heytvelt ready to take control

GONZAGA

With all the change in the GU basketball program this season, there is more pressure on the shoulders of one Zag than any other.

Josh Heytvelt.

The sophomore forward is expected to assume the mantle of offensive leadership held the past couple of years by Adam Morrison – though nowhere near to the same degree.

Still the Clarkston High graduate is being encouraged to take the driver’s seat, a seat GU has always found a way to fill, no matter how empty the car.

John Blanchette examines where Heytvelt stands going into Friday night’s season opener with Eastern Washington and whether or not the 6-foot-11 scorer can get the Zags where they want to go.

••••••••••

Here’s an interesting piece from the University of Virginia student newspaper. It’s about the Cavalier’s upcoming basketball schedule and it has a reference to one of their toughest games: Jan. 3 when they host GU.

Big day for WSU

COUGARS

Lots of WSU stuff today, with basketball previews and a pretty big football game on Saturday.

Glenn Kasses worked on both, with his basketball preview page running today. Glenn had an overview story of the team and the upcoming season, along with WSU’s schedule, the Pac-10 preview and three players to keep an eye on.

In football, Cougar coach Bill Doba really want that bowl-clinching seventh win this week, not in next Saturday’s Apple Cup. Going into a rivalry game with a possible bowl berth on the line for both schools isn’t Doba’s idea of a good week.

Glenn also his Pac-10 notebook in today’s paper and more Coug information – a lot more – on his blog.

There are some similarities between WSU and this week’s opponent, ASU, as Craig Smith’s Seattle Times’ story highlights. There is also this News Tribune piece by Todd Milles’ on the Sun Devils starting running back, who began the season so far down the depth chart he couldn’t see the top.

A different type of coach at UCLA

COLLEGE FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL

Was wandering around the Net and found this story from the L.A. Times on UCLA coach Karl Dorrell.

I still think unless the Bruins turn the season around with a bowl berth or a defeat of USC, Dorrell may lose his job – the Notre Dame giveaway meant that much.

But this story of a quiet man doing his job is an interesting read and worth the time for college football fans. And anyone interested in the coaching profession.

•••••••••••

Also found this little piece in the Arizona Republic which mentions three local products in the ASU women’s basketball story.

On the men’s side, new ASU coach Herb Sendek, from North Carolina State, has his first game as a Sun Devil tonight.

Yes, EWU can win … and it would mean a lot for the Eagles

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

In my never-ending attempt to be your guide through the Inland Northwest sports scene – you know, the one where November is the best month, though you can disagree about that here – I received a question about the GU/EWU game from Greg on the post below.

Greg wrote: What I am really interested in is whether EWU can beat Gonzaga this year, and what’s the fallout for both teams if that happens?

Greg, the simply answer to your first question is yes and it wouldn’t be a huge upset. An upset, sure, but not a huge upset. The Eagles are a veteran group - if you can call any team veteran whose best player is a sophomore - that strengthened itself at a key position – point guard - with two top-notch recruits. Plus, you never know how many points Rodney Stuckey will put up, especially now he has the opportunity to work without the ball more often. He’s capable of scoring 40 at any time – he’s that good.

On the other side, the Zags are a team in search of its identity. As you know, last year’s team revolved so heavily around two guys – especially around one – that the other players were like Jupiter’s satellites. Now those moons are GU’s entire universe, and how they will work together is still up in the air … that just might have been the most-convoluted analogy written this side of a Simpson’s episode.

But the point is: This game comes early for GU in what is obviously a rebuilding season, so EWU has its best shot of winning in recent memory.

So what would an Eastern win mean? It would be the perfect springboard for the Eagles, giving them confidence to attack the rest of their schedule. I wouldn’t surprised if they win the Big Sky no matter what happens Friday, but if they do win at GU, they would have to move into the Big Sky favorite’s role – barring injuries of course.

For GU, a loss would take one weight off, the pressure of the McCarthey Athletic Center unbeaten record. But it would add a lot more, most notably the questions that would invariably come about this team’s future. Let’s be honest, GU fans have been spoiled in recent years.

Even if this group were to lose to EWU, it still has a shot at being damn good, maybe not 28-win good, but NCAA second-round good. And that should be enough for the McCarthey faithful.

What do you think? Go ahead and post your comments here.

Seattle’s MNF experience is a win-win

SEAHAWKS

Only got to watch the first quarter last night, but my question to you is:

Are the Seahawks that good or are the Raiders that bad?

My vote is b, the Raiders are that bad. But it was exactly what Seattle needed on this Monday night in November - the Inland Northwest’s best sports month (tell us your favorite here) - just a win baby.

With Monday Night Football – even this year’s MNF-lite on ESPN – in town, the Seattle-area papers went nuts, so to speak.

First, let’s link to Jim Meehan’s column about the game, along with the game story we ran and the notebook.

Now on to Seattle.

Here are the game stories: The Times; P-I; and News Tribune.

The columns: the P-I’s Art Thiel, Ted Miller and Jim Moore; the News Tribune’s Dave Boling and John McGrath; the Herald’s John Sleeper; and the Times’ Steve Kelley and Jerry Brewer.

The best sidebars: The Times on Mike Holmgren “feeling” Shaun Alexander will miss one more game; The P-I on the weather parting for the game; The News Tribune on backup defensive tackle Craig Terrill, who admits his sack dance needs work; and the Herald on the defense.

Showdown looms in three (rainy) days

EAGLES, ZAGS, COLLEGE BASKETBALL UPDATED: 3:15 P.M.

Because these two schools are so intertwined this week – a typical sporting event in the Inland Northwest’s best sports month (tell us your favorite here) – we’re going to cover them on the same posts.

Today was The S-R’s EWU preview day, with Dave Trimmer covering everything about the Eags except where they have their breakfast – my guess: Zip’s.

As Dave pointed out, this is Rodney Stuckey’s team, and why shouldn’t it be? The 6-foot-5 sophomore guard (pictured; Associated Press photo) is one of the best players in the nation – and probably the best the Eagles have ever had.

But there are other Eagles to watch during a Big Sky race EWU is one of the favorites to win.

The EWU staff feels this is the best team they’ve had in Cheney – which is saying a lot – and Stuckey is the main reason why. It’s his versatility that worries Gonzaga coach Mark Few, and to combat that, the Zags will probably rotate three or four different players, with different styles of defense, on Stuckey. We’ll look at this in more depth prior to Friday’s game.

The teams meet at 5 p.m. Friday (KHQ-6; both schools radio networks) and we’ll be there to offer post-game commentary. There will also be a game story posted right after the conclusion of the contest on The Spokesman-Review’s sports website.

Don’t forget to check out Steve Bergum’s Gonzaga blog, which has news on GU’s injured players, and Dave Trimmer’s Eagle blog, which also has more on this week’s football game.

UPDATE: Though there are those at GU that hate this designation, Gonzaga was ranked No. 2 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll. The top team? Creighton. Loyola-Marymount is 16, Northern Arizona 18 and Montana is 19.

••••••••••

The Pac-10 Conference basketball race was the subject of a Times’ story today, with Bob Condotta showing why the conference has gotten so top-heavy again. The Times also did its WSU season preview, which we will link to in the Cougar post.

••••••••••

I heard this was a possibility at last year’s state basketball tournament, but Curtis High guard Isaiah Thomas, who has committed to UW, has academic troubles that might keep him from being eligible this season, and from attending UW.

More praise for Bobcat rookie

MORRISON WATCH

Mike Brown, head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, is an Adam Morrison fan.

Morrison had 13 points in the Bobcats’ recent win over Cleveland, and, according to an Associated Press story, had a huge hand in limiting LeBron James to 16 points – though a basketball person whose opinion I respect watched the game and didn’t see it that way.

Brown had this to say in the Plain Dealer story: “He’s fun to watch,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said of Morrison. “He has a chance to be a special player. He’s tough. He’s long. What he has is a confidence within himself, a cockiness. He knows he’s going to be good. He’s not afraid. With his shooting range, he has a chance to be dangerous.”

Gonzaga still has national credibility

BULLDOGS UPDATED: 3:35 P.M.

Just a couple of notes today before I head out to the Gonzaga practice to talk with a couple players.

The New York Daily News’ Dick Weiss has Gonzaga ranked 22nd in the nation, though he tempers it somewhat with his summary of the team’s chances. Weiss, who is one of the more respected college basketball writers in the nation, also has the University of Washington 19, Memphis 15 and Duke 10, all GU opponents. Defending champion Florida is No. 1 on his list.

The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy weighs in on the possible discontinuation of the GU series with UW.

UPDATE: The first Associated Press poll is out and GU received enough votes to be 28th. From the West, UCLA is sixth, Arizona 10, Washington 17 and Nevada 24.

Don’t forget to check out Steve Bergum’s GU blog.

It was different time that made these men stronger

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

This story is worth reading. It doesn’t need a preamble, just maybe an amen at the end. It’s about three former University of Washington men who stood up for what they believed in. Whether you agree with their position or not, we need more people who will stand up for their beliefs, not less.

WSU drops out of the polls

COUGARS

Yes, the Cougars dropped from every poll, except maybe the one put out by my grandmother in her basement in Albion (that’s a joke).

If you are still interested in the polls without WSU, here’s the BCS standings (with Louisville jumping to three), the AP poll, the USA Today coaches’ poll and the (Ed) Harris poll, put out by a bunch of unemployed actors who used to paint houses for a living (that might be a joke too, I’m not sure).

See you tomorrow, I’m missing the Pats and the Colts.

Is nothing sacred any more?

PIRATES, VANDALS, EAGLES, HUSKIES FOOTBALL

When I first moved to Spokane more than two decades ago, one thing I knew about the town was it’s the home of Whitworth College. A high school friend had attended the North Side school, so I took to following the Pirates’ football.

Following was right, because I only rarely got out to the Pine Bowl for a game. But there was one thing I learned quickly: the Pirates were remarkably consistent. Every year they lost to Linfield.

It become a tradition, you know, like the slick pumpkins crushed after their rolls down Freya hill. You didn’t like it, but you knew it was coming and you kind of looked forward to it.

Comfort football, if you will.

So what do those darn Pirates do Saturday? They go and win in McMinnville. Oh, they tried to keep the tradition alive. They even left the offense in Spokane to give Linfield a chance.

But no, those liberal Oregonians wanted change, and they were willing to just give the game away (just like a bunch of tree huggers). Seventy-three turnovers later, Whitworth had the 17-13 win and quite probably the Northwest Conference title.

Another tradition all shot to heck. What’s next? Sell the school to Methodists?

••••••••••

Dennis Erickson would take someone giving his team a game right now. In the past two weeks, Idaho has been outscored 113-17, culminated in Saturday’s 45-7 home loss to Nevada.

For more, check Jim Meehan’s blog.

••••••••••

Eastern would also love a win, any win, after Saturday’s 19-17loss at coach-less Weber State. The Eagles fell victim to a couple of trick plays in the defeat, and coach Paul Wulff sounded a little miffed.

“It’s frustrating when you do bone-headed things and don’t give yourself a chance. It gets a little tiresome when you don’t execute very well,” he said.

As always, check Dave Trimmer’s blog for more information.

••••••••••

The season is running out on the Washington Huskies, as Oregon returned to form by running over UW in an easy 34-14 victory, the Dawgs’ fifth consecutive loss.

There are lot’s of stories in the Seattle-area papers, including this game story from the Times, one from the News Tribune, a Steve Kelley column, a John Sleeper column and this sidebar on Jonathan Stewart.

It is sort of like slowing down at an accident

COUGARS

If you are a masochist or a true-blue Cougar fan – and there’s a fine line between the two, right? - you probably want to read every word about WSU’s loss to Arizona and what went wrong for the Cougs.

We’ll try to oblige.

And we’ll start with The Spokesman-Review entries. Here is Glenn Kasses’ game story, John Blanchette’s column and Glenn’s sidebar on the newest run of injuries.

We also had a notebook from Glenn and Dave Trimmer which leads with the special teams breakdowns that cost WSU 10 points. And then there’s the staples, how they scored and the worst grades of the year along with the Pac-10 standings.

From the Arizona locker room, Dave had this sidebar on the record-setting day from running back Chris Henry.

And of course, there will be more today at Glenn’s blog.

OK, if you want to put Saturday’s game behind you, remember the Cougs open their exhibition hoops season under new coach Tony Bennett today.

Well, back to football.

Adam Morrison: Defensive stopper

MORRISON WATCH

OK, admit it. You never thought you would ever read the headline above.

Well, the Bobcats defeated Cleveland 92-88 Saturday - their first win of the season - in big part because the Cavs’ LeBron James was held to 16 points.

And who guarded James? Well read this Associated Press story and find out …

Lifeless Cougars fall flat against the Wildcats

COUGARS

The rain began falling about halftime of the Cougars’ 27-17 upset at the hands of visiting Arizona, but the WSU effort was all wet long before then.

How about right out of the locker room?

UA at WSU, Third Quarter

COUGARS

Not only are the Cougars losing 27-17 at the end of the third quarter, their receivers are falling to wayside like a ‘63 Buick.

Jason Hill and Michael Bumpus are out with ankle sprains. Charles Dillon is limping like an 80-year-old veteran but still playing.

Let’s put it this way: Oft-injured senior wide receiver Chris Jordan, who just returned after left-knee surgery, is the healthiest wideout the Cougs have.

Cody Boyd, the 6-foot-8 tight end who also has returned recently from an injury, has had to play as a standup receiver in the four-wide out sets. Scott Selby, who has yet to catch a pass this season, has played a few plays this quarter.

Remember last week when coach Bill Doba asked for volunteers to punt and Bumpus stepped up? At the end of the quarter, he may have been asking for wide receiver volunteers.

And someone to tell him when it’s a bad time to call a fake punt. For it was an ill-timed option on fourth down at midfield out of punt formation that led directly to UA’s third touchdown – and a 10-point lead.

UA at WSU, First Quarter

COUGARS

The questions about the special teams were answered in the positive during the first quarter, which ended with WSU up 10-7 – but UA on the march.

Punter Daryl Blunt punted once, and hit a boomer. His 55-yarder might have been too good, as the WSU coverage broke down and Blunt had to tackle Syndric Steptoe 39 yards downfield. If that didn’t get his heart racing, nothing will.

And Romeen Abdollmohamadi converted an extra point, a field goal and had two kickoffs sail into the end zone.

But other questions cropped up, like is the defense really here and can the Cougars run the ball? We’ll keep an eye on them.

UA at WSU, Pregame I

COUGARS

The biggest questions prior to the game revolve around the kicking game.

Punter Daryl Blunt looks OK, and seems to be booming the ball in pregame like usual.

Kicker Romeen Abdollmohammadi is another story. Abdollmohammadi pulled almost all his warmup kicks and his range was limited to less than 40 yards.

Expect coach Bill Doba to go for it on fourth down a lot again today.

**********

Mkristo Bruce seems pretty healthy, at least when he was running prior to the game - without a knee brace. He’ll probably wear one during the game, but his mobility looked good.

**********

A lot has been made of Arizona’s inept offense. But remember, a big part of that is the Wildcats have been using either a second or third string quarterback. Today, starter Willie Tuitama will be back from his concussion. The slippery sophomore will give WSU something they haven’t seen much this year: A quarterback who is his team’s best running back.

How the Cougars defend him just might be the key in whether or not they limit the UA offense.

Prior to the Stanford game, an Arizona 20-7 win, head coach Mike Stoops changed play callers, giving the responsibility to Dana Dimel, the tight ends coach. The Wildcats scored 20 points that game, but reverted to form against Oregon State in the Wildcats’ last contest.

Whitworth tries to break new ground

HUSKIES, VANDALS, EAGLES, PIRATES

This may well be the biggest Saturday in Whitworth football history. If the 10th-ranked Pirates can travel to McMinnville, Ore., and defeat 15th-ranked Linfield, the Northwest Conference title and its ensuing automatic NCAA Division III playoff berth is theirs.

But Whitworth hasn’t won at Linfield since most yuppies were in high school and it won’t be easy – Linfield has dominated the NWC recently and is still undefeated in conference play. The Wildcats have posted 51 consecutive winning seasons, an NCAA record for any level of play. The game starts at 1 p.m. (KSBN 1230-AM radio coverage).

••••••••••

Weber State will host Eastern today without coach Ron McBride, suspended by the Big Sky for criticizing the officiating after last week’s game.

Will that help or hurt?

This is a personal aside, so you can skip this if you want: When I was a senior at UC Irvine, we played at Cal State Northridge in a baseball game. Our head coach, Eddie Allen, was in Florida on business (coaching was a sidelight) so I took the lineup card to home plate. The CSUN coach asked “where’s Eddie?” I answered that he was in Florida. The coach’s response? “That’s a break for you guys.” I do believe we won.

So maybe not having McBride will be a break for Weber. The game starts at noon (1510-AM). Also, check Dave Trimmer’s blog for more info.

•••••••••••

After last week’s debacle in Hawaii, the Vandals will take any break they can get. But it won’t be easy with Nevada coming to the Kibbie Dome (2 p.m.; 790-AM, 1080-AM).

The Vandals will be trying for their first win over a Division I school with a winning record. They will also be trying to take another step toward a winning season.

For more, check out Jim Meehan’s blog.

••••••••••

There’s almost a million stories available about today’s UW at Oregon game – OK that’s hyperbole (or is it exaggeration?) but there are a lot. My favorite this week was about the expected traffic jams on Interstate 5.

Anyhow, here is the story we ran about the game (12:30 p.m.; TBS). And here is the Times advance, the P-I’s and the News Tribune’s.

••••••••••

I’m off to a hoops game, then on to Pullman. When I get there, I’ll link to other stuff, like college basketball (UW won its exhibition game last night) and pro basketball (more on Adam Morrison and on Ronny Turiaf’s second consecutive big game – what a smile).

The weekend of prep football kicks off, continues

PREPS

When the Greater Spokane League and the Columbia Basin League decided to use the 10th week of the prep football schedule for the state playoff play-in games and for crossover non-league games for the non-qualifiers, Friday night was reserved for the non-league games, Saturday for the play-in games.

Until Pasco qualified. See, the Bulldog administration is hosting the state cross country meet today, so a Friday night game was a must. That’s why Lewis and Clark traveled to the Tri-Cities last night as the GSL’s No. 3 seed with a golden opportunity to upset the CBL’s top-seeded team. It was not to be, as the Bulldogs still romped despite what they described as a flat effort.

The two leagues combine for three 4A playoff berths (see advance for the other play-in games today), with one of them being line 16 on the bracket, the bottom position which means that team hosts games through the semifinals. This year, that spot goes to the GSL’s No. 1 team (Gonzaga Prep) if the Pups win today. Otherwise, Pasco gets the spot and would host Eisenhower (if it upsets G-Prep). If Prep wins, it will host the winner of today’s Moses Lake vs. Ferris (the No. 2 seeds from each league) game. If the Pups lose, the winner of that game would move into the bracket slot currently reserved for Pasco.

In the non-league games Friday, the CBL went 5-2, with only Mead and Shadle Park winning.

In other Washington prep football action Friday night, the Northeast A went 1-3 in crossover games with the Caribou Trail League, meaning only Lakeside, the fourth seed, advanced to the 1A playoffs. League champion Freeman lost in a 10-6 stunner to Omak.

In Idaho, you just had to know at least one team would play better in the Lake City-Coeur d’Alene rematch. Turns out, it was Lake City. A lot better. The Timberwolves routed Cd’A 48-7 to move on in the Idaho state 5A football playoffs. In the 4A playoffs, Bishop Kelly scored 14 late points to shock Sandpoint 28-24 and eliminate the host Bulldogs. Mullan shocked Kootenai 26-22, avenging two earlier defeats, to highlight other action.

There was also some volleyball played in Washington on Friday, with the GSL faring much better against its CBL opponents than the football teams did. The girls swept, meaning when the 4A regional continues today at Mead and Mt. Spokane, the GSL has a chance to sweep the state berths.

Golden awards and a need for golden arms

MARINERS, BASEBALL

The Golden Gloves were handed out yesterday and, due to how late they are, were once again overlooked.

But before you start complaining about how the same guys win every year – and you’re right – remember this: Someone on the M’s has won a Gold Glove every year since 1987. That streak of 20 consecutive years – continued this season by Ichiro’s award – is the longest active streak in the bigs (Ichiro and Chris Snelling pictured; Associated Press photo).

But awards aren’t atop the list of interest from Mariners fans right now. There are problems the team needs to address, and the News Tribune’s Larry LaRue – Seattle’s best baseball beat writer for my money - addresses those needs – and the M’s chances of filling them – in this story.

Have fun watching

TELEVISION

Want to have some fun Sunday night?

Go to this NBC.com link and download “Malibu” Kelly Hayes’ spotting board.

It’s the visual aid the spotter, Hayes, uses to help Al Michaels identify who made what play. Keep it with you while you watch the game and see how often Michaels uses tidbits from it to sound intelligent.

New turf at Tacoma Dome

PREPS, PART II

There is a picture and extended cutline in today’s News Tribune of a new artificial turf surface being installed at the Tacoma Dome, which will hosts the state football finals early next month.

For more on the surface being installed, check here.

Morrison or Gay? The first matchup is tonight

MORRISON WATCH

The Bobcats travel to Memphis tonight to face the Grizzlies.

The game features the two guys Charlotte debated for the No. 3 pick in last spring’s NBA draft: Adam Morrison, who the Bobcats selected, of course, and Connecticut’s Rudy Gay, (pictured; Associated Press photo) who fell to Memphis and scored 21 points in the Grizzlies’ first game, a one-point loss to the Knicks.

Gerald Wallace, whose injury in the Bobcats’ opener allowed Morrison more playing time, seems to be OK and will be in the lineup tonight.

The Bobcats’ opening-night attendance is the focus of discussion in this Gaston Gazette story.

Zimmerman back but others out

CHIEFS, WHL

With Kelowna coming to town tonight, Spokane will be without some players due to injuries. But they will have Sean Zimmerman back off suspension.

Jeff Bunch’s story today covers the Zimmerman situation and the injuries in advance of tonight’s match (7 p.m.; 790-AM).

Jeff has more on his blog.

••••••••••

This wasn’t unavailable yesterday, but here’s the Tri-City Herald’s story on the Americans’ Wednesday night win over Chilliwack.

Seattle and Portland meet in back-to-back games this weekend, and the Portland Tribune had a quick preview.

Prep seasons winding down

PREPS

The 10th week of Washington high school football means, in some cases, a last league or non-league game and, in others, a play-in game for a state playoff berth.

It’s the latter that holds the most fascination tonight, with the 4A game’s beginning as Lewis and Clark, the Greater Spokane League’s third-place team, facing Pasco, top seed from the Columbia Basin league.

There is also a few Idaho state playoff games tonight, most notably Coeur d’Alene at Lake City. You can find out more information at Greg Lee’s blog and Mike Vlahovich’s blog.

Another day, another short-sighted decision

MARINERS

A quick post about the Northwest’s most maddening professional sports franchise – and that’s saying something – before I have to sign off for a while (some sad stuff to deal with).

The powers-that-be in the front office have decided not to make a bid for Japanese starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, despite a Lindsay Lohan-thin pitching roster. General manager Bill Bavasi didn’t give the reasons behind the decision, but there is talk about the high price tag.

Hey, how about the high price tag of watching your fan base melt away thanks to wildly extravagant spending on corner infielders who either had just one good year an entire career or never proved they can hit when a pennant is still in doubt?

They’ll probably save the Matsuzaka money to spend on an over-the-hill right-handed power pitcher instead of bidding on a lefty which would seem perfect for Safeco.

A good day to end a losing streak

CHIEFS

The losing streak is over.

And the Chiefs aren’t in last place.

Derek Ryan’s third-period power-play goal lifted the Chiefs to a 4-3 win over U.S. Division cellar-dweller Portland at the Arena Wednesday night.

You can read Dave Trimmer’s story here and there’s more on Jeff Bunch’s Chiefs blog.

The Chiefs home stand continues Friday night when they host Kelowna (7 p.m.; 790-AM).

In other WHL U.S. Division action last night, the Everett Silvertips won their sixth consecutive game. Tri-City also won over Chilliwack, 4-3 in overtime, but there isn’t a story yet on the Herald’s web site.

Turnovers, Pacers unravel Morrison’s first NBA day

MORRISON WATCH UPDATED: 3:25 P.M.

There are a few stories out there covering the Charlotte Bobcats first game this season – and Adam Morrison’s first real professional contest – so let’s go right to them.

We’ll start with the Charlotte Observer and Rick Bonnell’s game story in which Morrison isn’t mentioned at all. The Bobcats’ 22 turnovers play a big part, however, and rightfully so.

The reason Morrison isn’t featured prominently in the game story? Probably because there is a column from Scott Fowler that is just about Morrison – and how his 41-footer to end the first quarter was all about hope for the franchise’s future.

The present isn’t all that grand, especially financially, as the opener wasn’t even a sellout, coming up about 500 short.

And, if you want pictures of Morrison, you’ll find one on the Observer’s slide show.

There is also this game story from the Rocky Mount Telegram.

UPDATE: November is diabetes awareness month - the month after Halloween seems like a good choice - and Morrison is stepping forward to advocate better diabetes management. As this press release outlines, Morrison is teaming with a company that makes blood glucose monitors on a web site about diabetes.

Kicking off the day with the big high school weekend

PREPS

On a day like this one, with so many sports to link to and talk about – the Zags’ opener, Adam Morrison’s debut, Coug football and more – it’s hard to pick a topic for the morning’s first post.

And I know Dennis Patchin won’t read unless I write about my kids, so …

Let’s start with the preps. After all, it is Thursday, and that means its Prep Page day in The Spokesman-Review, and that means lots of stories about kids - just not mine.

First night out: 14 points

MORRISON WATCH UPDATED: 9:55 P.M.

Adam Morrison’s NBA debut probably went as well as could be expected.

He came off the bench in the Bobcats’ 106-99 home loss to Indiana and scored 14 points, tied for second-best among his team.

But his shooting woes continued, as he hit just 5 of 13 shots – 1 for 3 from 3-point range – though he did all three of his free throws.

He also added two assists, three rebounds and four turnovers.

We’ll check in with game stories when we get a chance.

UPDATE: After the GU game (post coming, I promise), here’s a link to the AP story.

Morrison’s first NBA shots

MORRISON WATCH

Thanks to the free preview of NBA TV on digital cable, I was able to watch Adam Morrison’s first NBA action.

Morrison checked in with a little less than 6 minutes left in the first quarter against Indiana. On his first possession as a pro, made a little duck-under move, rose up and nailed a leaner for his first two points. There were 5:35 left in the quarter.

On the Bobcats’ next possession, he was left open at the top of the arc, but missed the 3-pointer.

But all in all, not a bad start.

First tip in post-Batista era tonight

ZAGS, COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Gonzaga unveils the 2006-2007 Zag team tonight at the McCarthey Center with an exhibition game against Augustana College (S.D). Because Augustana is an NCAA Division II school, the game won’t count on the Zags’ overall record. The SportsLink will be there, with a game story on The S-R’s web site after the game is over and commentary here.

There was some other Zag news in today’s S-R, with John Blanchette writing his column on UW abandoning the series with Gonzaga after this year.

The thing you have to admire about John in his role as the S-R’s lead sports columnist is he never pulls his punches. He’s charged with telling you how he feels about something and, after you’ve read his column, you know where he stands. After you’ve read this piece, you’ll know he thinks UW is making a mistake, a mistake the Zags shouldn’t repeat with their EWU series.

••••••••••

Speaking of the Husky basketball program, coach Lorenzo Romar isn’t sure yet about his player rotation. Only point guard Justin Dentmon and forward Jon Brockman are sure starters. My guess is, if he’s healthy, freshman Spencer Hawes will be starting as well.

The state of this rivalry: A river runs through it

HUSKIES

The Washington vs. Oregon football rivalry is just that: a state rivalry. At least that’s the premise of Don Ruiz’s story in today’s News Tribune.

Ruiz not only looks at the lack of players crossing the Columbia to play for the neighboring state university, but also looks at the reason there are so few football players from the Northwest states.

Louis Rankin is trying to change his running style. The Washington running back is learning how to hit the hole faster, to think less and to get upfield.

Another Johnny DuRocher back to Oregon story, this one in the Times. The paper also has a notebook that leads with the illness suffered by running back Johnie Kirton last Saturday. The source of the illness? An infected hair follicle in his chin.

Beside no more infected hairs, the Huskies would also like a fast start this weekend, something that hasn’t happened recently.

McBride should have gotten his suspension’s worth

EAGLES

I understand we all have to give up certain freedoms to stay employed.

A journalist, for example, can’t yell “fire” in a crowded newsroom and expect to have a job in the morning. Or put up a blog posting about his boss’ penchant for wearing a certain type of fowl slippers.

And college coaches can’t say a bad word about officials. Or even innocuous ones, like Weber State’s Ron McBride did last week.

Reading Dave Trimmer’s Big Sky notebook on McBride’s comments after his Wildcats’ loss to Montana State, it’s hard to believe he would be suspended for what he said. But he was.

So this Saturday, when Weber hosts Eastern, McBride won’t have his play sheet in front of his face or his headphones on. He’ll be on the conference’s equivalent of double-secret probation.

As always, Dave has more on his blog.

Hobson takes mantle and leads the way

CHIEFS

Last-place Portland invades the Arena tonight for a showdown with the next-to-last-place Chiefs, who are trying to stop a long losing streak.

So whom do the Chiefs look to for leadership? That would be captain Adam Hobson, the subject of a Jeff Bunch profile in today’s S-R. According to Bunch’s story, Hobson has fulfilled the high expectations the team had for him when Spokane took him in the first round of the WHL draft in 2002.

As we mentioned before, the Winter Hawks have won three consecutive games. But we neglected to link to this story. Now we have.

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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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