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Zags on a wild ride

A GRIP ON SPORTS

I'm not a rollercoaster guy. Mainly it has to do with heights – to say I hate them is an understatement; it's more like an irrational fear – but it also has to do with the constant up and downs. Speed is fine. Give me a ride that races around corners and stretches the boundaries of centrifugal force anytime. But rollercoasters? No thanks. What does this have to do with sports? I think you know. Read on.


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• We do this bit on the radio show every day called “buy or sell.” You are given a statement and you either have to ­– surprise ­– buy it or sell it. Hence the name. A while back one of the questions revolved around Gonzaga and its ability to catch St. Mary's. Would St. Mary's stumble down the stretch? I bought it, then added a caveat. So would the Zags. There was some discussion about that in the booth and the statement seemed to hang over me like Joe Btfsplk's rain cloud (Google it). Of course, St. Mary's did stumble, getting blown out at home by Loyola-Marymount. And then last night the Zags did their part. But that's the type of season it's been for Gonzaga and there is a simple explanation. Though the Bulldogs are 21-5 (and that's nothing to sneeze at, especially with their schedule), though they have some of the more talented players on the West Coast and though they are easily the best team in our area, they do feature a young backcourt that occasionally is going to struggle, especially on the road. The common denominators of GU's three road conference losses? Turnovers and the inability to execute offensively when it's needed. It's a flaw that will disappear in time (young guards always become more experienced guards) but it's one that Gonzaga coach Mark Few has been dealing with this season.

• That's the bottom of the rollercoaster ride. The first half of the Cougar game last night was the top of the hill, where you can see for miles. How good was their defense in that first 20 minutes? Excellent, though Arizona State's inept offense – especially its lack of patience – had something to do with it. But it's been a long time since I've watched such a dominating half by WSU on the defensive end. Maybe all the way back to the first half of the NCAA tournament game with Notre Dame a few years ago. That game was 32-19 at intermission, but the Irish were one of the best teams in the nation. Arizona State isn't. Still, holding anyone, even a high school team, to eight points in a half is an accomplishment, one the Cougars should be proud of. And more than 5,000 people were there to see it. Good for them.

• Gonzaga: The loss throws the Zags' hopes of winning a 12th-consecutive WCC title into the blender, sure, but there is also another aspect to it. With BYU coming to town on Thursday and bringing the same 11-3 conference mark into the game GU has, Gonzaga is in a race for second place and the ensuing byes in the conference tourney. The Bulldogs have BYU at home and USD on the road. BYU finishes with 6-21 Portland at home. And, if you're interested, beat-up St. Mary's, which lost 65-51 at Murray State in its BracketBuster matchup, has Portland and USF on the road. An interesting last week. By the way, fourth-place Loyola, 10-4 in conference, is in trouble. It has two home games, vs. USD and Santa Clara, and we all know the Lions, which defeated Valparaiso on Saturday, are better off on the road. … Jim Meehan has this game story from the Gonzaga loss and will add a day-after post soon. … BYU had little trouble with Santa Clara, winning 82-67. … USD lost at Cal State Bakersfield, 72-63. … The NCAA invited journalists to Indianapolis over the weekend. Jon Wilner has all the skinny on the mock selection. … The Gonzaga women played poorly early on but ended up routing Pepperdine, 66-40. Jess Brown was there – so were we – and has this story

• Washington State: Christian Caple covers the Cougars big 72-50 win with a post-game blog post, his game story and this morning's post. … Cal is still tied with UW for first-place in the conference. One person wants to give thanks to Mike Montgomery. … Doug Haller talked with the commissioner about the Pac-12's basketball woes. … Though Christian has the interviews in his morning post, we like to pass them along here. They are courtesy of WSU's athletic department.

•••

• Here is coach Ken Bone …

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• And here are the players …

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• Eastern Washington: OK, so I was wrong. My Anteaters were able to pull out a victory against the Eagles, 78-73 at Irvine. Sorry about that Eastern fans. … Weber State held the Big Sky's banner high, snapping UT Arlington's 16-game winning streak.

• Idaho: The Vandals boat-raced Portland State, 77-68, and Josh Wright has this story. … Utah State couldn't handle UC Santa Barbara.

• Whitworth: The Pirates say goodbye to a very successful group of seniors. Jim Allen was there.

• Preps: Deer Park won another state title yesterday – Greg Lee has the story – but Mead came up a bit short, despite four state champions. … Want to remember the B Tournament as it was? John Blanchette has just the answer.

• Chiefs: Spokane's losing streak has reached four. Not good with the playoffs right around the corner.

• NBA: Seattle's new arena plan isn't as simple, or as far along, as it might have looked.

• Mariners: It's Sunday, so that seems like a good day to examine the Ichiro situation from a couple angles. … Will Eric Wedge hold the M's more accountable?

• Olympics: The U.S. trials end with three winners. Now they head to China and try to qualify for London. John has the story.

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• That's it for this morning. I hope you have a really nice Sunday, but stay off any rollercoasters. Until later …


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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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Jim Meehan Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Josh Wright Josh Wright is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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