A GRIP ON SPORTS
Behold the power of the Kennel. Gonzaga obviously didn't play all that well Thursday night, giving up a battalion of offensive rebounds and turning the ball over 20 times, but they still defeated visiting Brigham Young by 11. That, my friends, is the power of the Kennel. Read on.
• That wasn't all of it, of course, but the home-court advantage is strong in the young Bulldogs. BYU took 78 shots, thanks to 23 offensive rebounds and the Zag turnovers, but made less than a third of them, and less than a quarter of its 3-point attempts. Gonzaga got to the free-throw line a lot, with 44 attempts (the Zags made 36). Add it up and somehow it comes out to a 74-63 win for GU, clinching at least the WCC Tournament's second seed – and a possible rematch with the Cougars in the semifinals. (As an aside, as I was watching the game last night, I was kind of mystified by some of the calls. Not foul calls, but such things as who touched the ball last as it went out of bounds. So I clicked back on seven plays that were 50/50. As far as I could tell, the officials, according to the replay, had it right two times. Yes, they missed five. They were in good spots to make the call – and if you've ever watched an officiating clinic, you know how much that is emphasized – but they didn't even get half the calls correct. A couple of the misses were in somewhat of a scrum, which would make sense. But a couple were pretty obvious. And yes, all three do work Pac-12 games as well.) Back to the game itself, the outcome was pretty much what I expected (and said so on the radio show yesterday) after determining BYU would be without Noah Hartsock, who injured his left knee last week. The Cougars' leading scorer (more than 17 per game) tried to go, playing seven first-half minutes, but was not moving well. He was a liability on defense and, while on the court, didn't help on offense. Without him, however, the Cougars seemed to have a tough time figuring out whom to run their attack through, finally settling on getting Brandon Davies touches. It worked to some degree, but they never looked in synch offensively. A big part of that was the disruptive nature of GU's defense, which, when it's on, can be darn good. But a lot of it was BYU as well – and the power of the Kennel.
• Gonzaga: We'll start with Jim Meehan's game story and John Blanchette's column, both of which were in this morning's S-R. ... Bud Withers was in town and had this column in the Times. ... From Salt Lake City, there are a couple game stories and a notebook. ... St. Mary's converted one of two needed wins in its pursuit of a solo WCC title (and an end to GU's run), taking Portland apart, 70-43. All the Gaels have to do to win the title outright is defeat USF on the road Saturday. That or GU needs to lose at USD. Will St. Mary's defeat USF? Tell us what you think below. ... The Toreros went to Los Angeles last night and upset Loyola Marymount, 60-57.
• Washington State: Not a lot from Pullman, though Christian Caple has all the Pac-12 news in his morning blog post. He also has a blog post concerning Marcus Capers, one of three WSU seniors who will be honored Saturday (along with long-time – and exceptional – manager Neil Stover). ... Former Cougar assistant coach Leon Burtnett has landed a new job, working for Robin Pflugrad at Montana. The Grizzlies' coaching staff is starting to take on a distinctive Bill Doba hue.
• Idaho: Though football season has been over for almost three months, Robb Akey finally got around to naming a new offensive coordinator yesterday. It's former Cougar quarterback Jason Gesser, who joined the Vandal staff last season after coaching in high school. Josh Wright has all the particulars in this story and blog post. ... The Vandal basketball team travels to Utah State for tomorrow's conference game.
• Eastern Washington: The Eagles needed a big road win and they got it last night, despite not having leading scorer Colin Chiverton for much of the game, holding off Idaho State, 85-78 in Pocatello. The win clinched a Big Sky Conference tournament berth for EWU and kept alive its hopes for a home game. ... Weber State, an 88-71 winner over Northern Colorado, and Montana, who defeated Northern Arizona, 78-60, will face off in Missoula for the conference title next Tuesday. The Griz will host MSU this Saturday. ... Portland State defeated Sacramento State, 94-88, and will host Eastern on Saturday.
• Whitworth: The NWC tournament got underway last night and it went pretty much according to form. The Pirates handled Lewis & Clark, 79-61 at home behind Idris Lasisi's 27 points. Jim Allen was there and has this story. ... 10th-ranked Whitworth will host Puget Sound Saturday night for the title. The Loggers defeated Whitman, 79-62.
• Mariners: Spring training stories usually take one of two forms, the veteran-is-going-to-be-OK one or the-rookie-that-has-no-chance variety. Both are available today. ... The biggest baseball news yesterday concerned National League MVP Ryan Braun, who won another type of award. The "I'm-not-suspended" award, becoming the first major leaguer to have his failed drug test overturned. Larry Stone weighs in as does the LA Times' Kevin Baxter.
• Sounders: So who is the captain? Coach Sigi Schmidt is in no hurry to name one.
• That's today's report. We'll be on the radio today with a fun show. With the Academy Awards on Sunday night, we decided to come up with some movie awards of our own. They all have a sports theme, of course. We'll start unveiling the winners at 3 p.m. Listen along and complain – or, more unlikely, praise – via text. It makes the show better. Until later ...