A GRIP ON SPORTS
After a basketball game as good as last night's, I can't wait to read about it in the morning. What I can't wait to read might just surprise you. Read on.
• When I cover a basketball game, the first thing I do before writing (or even interviewing if I have time) is peruse the box score. I take a pencil and circle the important elements, mainly to assure I don't miss anything when I put my story together. What are the important elements? It varies from game to game. The box can tell you a lot about what you just saw, bringing elements into focus you may just remember in a fuzzy sort of way. Of course, I wasn't writing the story after Gonzaga's last-second 71-69 win at Washington State last night, but I am now, so a quick study of the box is definitely in order. I'll start, as I always have, at the top and work my way down. The first circle goes around Gonzaga's record: 9-0. It's the Zags best start in the modern era. The next numbers to stand out are Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk's shots. They combined for 31 of Gonzaga's 55 shots (56 percent of them if you're keeping score at home) and scored 45 of the Zags' 71 points (63 percent). That shouldn't really come as a surprise, considering starting center Sam Dower was under the weather and 7-1 freshman Przemek Karnowski played just three minutes. Quickly glancing down, the Cougars matched the duo with a surprising duo of their own, with Brock Motum matching Harris' 23 points (no surprise) and DaVonte Lacy equaling Olynyk's 22 (a big surprise considering Lacy had not played in weeks after suffering a knee injury against Kansas). Back up to the GU part of the box and we have to circle the minutes. Harris had 37. Kevin Pangos 38. Gary Bell Jr. added 35 and Olynyk 31 off the bench. That is 141 of a possible 200 in just four guys. What happened to the Zags' vaunted depth last night? Another GU advantage, rebounding, also wasn't evident in the box, with Washington State actually out-rebounding the Bulldogs 32-31, even though Gonzaga had a 42-24 edge in points in the paint. Which brings us to the Cougars. WSU stayed in the game by knocking down its 3-pointers, with Motum, who had struggled much of the season, hitting 5-of-7, including a couple big ones down the stretch, and Lacy adding 4-of-9. That almost made up for the bagel put up by Dexter Kernich-Drew, a usually accurate shooter who missed all five of his long-range attempts. Maybe Kernich-Drew's hard work harassing Pangos into a 2-of-12 shooting night had something to do with it, but one or two 3-pointers from the wing would have really helped. The Cougars' three starting guards were 6-of-18 shooting, 1-of-10 from long range. Despite that, both teams shot well in the second half, with GU hitting 58 percent of its shots and Washington State 52. It was just part of a well played game. Which brings us to the bottom line. No, not the score, the three names a couple lines above that. Mike Scyphers, Michael Greenstein and Tommy Nunez. The three officials. I'm sorry, but the Pac-12 can do better than this. Scyphers is a good, workmanlike official who is fine with a couple of other strong officials. Greenstein isn't any of those things, and is kind of a pain in the neck to coaches, treating them with disdain. And Nunez is just overmatched in a game like this, as his too-quick-for-anyone's-good call of a technical on Motum attests. But the trio didn't ruin what was a great matchup of two highly motivated teams, as the box score attests.
• Washington State: As WSU was the home team, we'll link the coverage here. Christian Caple wrote the overall game story that showed up on the doorstep of a majority of S-R readers while Jim Meehan had this right-after-the-final-buzzer story. John Blanchette was also in Pullman and has this column tweaking the Huskies one more time for not playing GU. Tyler Tjomsland adds this picture story. ... Christian got the day's coverage started with this live chat, then added quotes, a post-game tale of the tape and wrapped it up with a morning post with links.
• Gonzaga: See paragraph above for coverage of the WSU game, but we have these additions. (And don't the dueling pictures here tell you the outcome?) ... St. Mary's traveled to Iowa and came home with a win over Drake, which is not an easy thing to do. ... USD traveled to Utah and also earned a win.
• EWU: There is more basketball to be had in Cheney, with the Eagles hosting Idaho tonight. Jim Allen has an advance. ... There is also football this weekend, of course, and Jim has a look at how Eastern's offense has evolved in the playoffs in this notebook. ... Jim also passes along links in this morning post. ... Weber State had little trouble with in-state foe Utah Valley State.
• Idaho: Besides the Vandals traveling up U.S. 195 tonight (covered in the paragraph above), the football coaching staff of new coach Paul Petrino is starting to come together, with some familiar names added. ... The Utah State basketball player who collapsed is doing much better, which is good news. The game with BYU was postponed until later in the season.
• Chiefs: The east has been more than hospitable to Spokane, with the Chiefs winning for the fourth time last night. Two more games await. ... Portland has risen to the No. 2 spot in junior hockey. ... Tri-Cities has its Teddy Bear toss tonight.
• Preps: Wednesday nights are for wrestling, with this roundup covering the GSL's opening night. We also have a GSL preview and a preview of other leagues in the area along with this feature. ... Greg Lee's column celebrates the career of Mead volleyball coach Judy Kight.
• Seahawks: With Brandon Browner (pictured) throwing in the towel and accepting his four-game drug suspension, the Hawks will look different on defense this weekend against Arizona. Walter Thurmond is the next man up at the spot. ... Some players have to rest during the week this late in the season. ... The Cardinals turn back to quarterback John Skelton against Seattle after trying Ryan Lindley in the spot the past couple weeks. The Hawks will start Russell Wilson, of course.
• Mariners: A lot of talk in Nashville, but about the only action at the winter meetings for the Mariners has been the soon-to-be-official signing of NIC and Gonzaga graduate Jason Bay to add depth to the outfield corps. A few years ago the signing would have been met with celebration in the streets. Today, not so much. There are still conversations with other free agents, however.
• If you're wondering if I go into that much depth with the box score after every college basketball game I cover, the answer is pretty much. Usually even more, as there were a couple stats that caught my eye but I didn't write about here due to the length of the post. For example, D.J. Shelton played just 26 minutes overall and hardly at all down the stretch. That would have been a question I would have asked after the game, why was freshman Junior Longrus, who picked up a couple of crucial ticky-tack foul calls, playing so much in crunch time? Until later ...