A GRIP ON SPORTS
Always thought there was no greater distraction working at home than a young child wanting attention. But now we have a cat. A pushy, needy, demanding cat. The cat is worse. It won't stay in its crib. Read on.
• Spent much of yesterday talking basketball on the radio, then much of the evening watching it. Most of my attention was on the Washington State game – it started first – but we got to watch a lot of the Gonzaga win as well. We have thoughts on both this morning, and would share them if the cat would only let me type – and quit trying to rub its chin against the screen.
• The Cougars are a little like the Roman god Janus. They look one way at home and another on the road. Yesterday, we asked you how many road games WSU would win this year and a majority of you thought it would be two or three. With the way they played last night, and the shocking injury to Faisal Aden – Christian Caple has a report on that here; it's a bit surprising it's only a sprain considering how awkward the knee bent per the TV replay – the Cougars are going to have to go some to win two or three. One of those chances comes tomorrow afternoon in Tempe, when they face the woeful Arizona State Sun Devils. But for WSU to come home with a split on the road – and its first conference road win – it will have to defend better than it did against UA, especially from the perimeter. And the Cougars will have to be a lot more efficient on the offensive end against the Sun Devils matchup zone. The Cougars haven't won in Tempe in Ken Bone's tenure, scoring just 46 points the first year and losing a tough one, 71-69, last season. ASU, suffering through a down period with its program, has still won three of four from Washington State. All of which doesn't bode well for the Cougars.
• We talked a bit yesterday on the radio about the Gonzaga game. Most everyone was of a mind the Zags would win easily – it was one of our buy-or-sell questions (“Will the Zags win by 18 or more points?) and I was the only one to sell. Which tells me observers of the Gonzaga program still haven't come to grips with the tougher nature of the WCC on the road. It just isn't as easy to win away from home in this conference anymore. The good teams do it, but they rarely blow anyone out anymore, even a team as youthful and challenged as Portland is this season. Add in the Zags have a youthful back court – extremely talented, yes, but populated by freshmen, with a sophomore and senior coming off the bench – and winning away from Spokane is still a learning experience for this group. After trailing at halftime last night, GU played much better in the second half and put another win in its road ledger, keeping up with St. Mary's. … Odd fact that runs against the preceding thoughts: Fourth-place Loyola-Marymount is 5-3 in conference play, winning five times on the road, losing three times (BYU, Gonzaga, St. Mary's) at home. The sad news for the Lions? They have five home games in the second half.
• Washington State: Christian has you covered for Cougar news as always, with this morning's post not only summarizing the 85-61 loss – he also did that last night – but giving you links to the rest of the Pac-12 basketball action. He also has this game story in today's S-R. … I don't think Christian linked this, so we will. It's Tony Wroten's dunk, the play that seemed to spark the Huskies in Tempe. … When Bill Moos let go of Paul Wulff, I had to put together a list of possible replacements. One name on that list you might not of heard about was in the news this week. It's Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, who the Ducks would have promoted to head coach if Chip Kelly had decided to take the Tampa Bay job (by the way, Twitter is full of Rutgers fans wishing their coach, Greg Schiano, had taken the Bucs position while Mike Leach was available; they have a serious case of Cougar-envy). … Ted Miller finally gets to grading Washington State for its 2011 season.
• Gonzaga: Jim Meehan was in the Chiles Center until the cleaning crew kicked him out (it happens more often than you might think) and he filed this story for today's S-R on GU's 74-62 win. … The game from the Oregonian side of things. … The Associated Press coverage. … The Zags stayed a game behind St. Mary's in the loss column as the Gaels held off Loyola in LA. St. Mary's is at BYU this weekend. … The Cougars are still trying to figure out where to land athletically. … Santa Clara is off to its worst start ever in WCC play, having lost its first seven games. The most recent is this 90-77 defeat to USF. Is Kerry Keating in trouble? … The Gonzaga women came up big against Loyola-Marymount thanks to the play off the bench of Stephanie Golden. Jess Brown has this story.
• Eastern Washington: It was Montana coach – and Spokane native – Wayne Tinkle's 46th birthday yesterday and the Griz gave him a 74-60 win over Eastern Washington as a present. Jim Allen has this game story in today's S-R. … The Missoulian's Bob Meseroll was in Cheney and has this gamer. … The Eastern women returned the favor in Missoula, defeating the Grizzlies 67-57. … Weber stayed atop the Big Sky standings with a 75-60 win over Sacramento State in California. … Montana State visits Cheney on Saturday, coming off a come-from-behind 70-65 win over Portland State.
• Idaho: The Vandals may have struggled a bit at home last night, but in the end they defeated San Jose State, 74-66. John Blanchette has the S-R's coverage and Josh Wright filed a blog post. … Next up for Idaho is Hawaii, which lost 77-72 at Utah State on Thursday night.
• Preps: They battled for the bone last night in the valley, with Central Valley winning the annual wrestling match with rival University. Mike Vlahovich was there and has this story. … We'll be at Gonzaga Prep tonight for the Pups' boys' game with U-Hi. Greg Lee will be out at Lake City for the intra-city battle with Coeur d'Alene.
• Chiefs: Spokane is on a roll and they hope to keep the hot streak going. Jess has more in this story.
• Mariners: So will Ichiro hit somewhere else in the lineup this season? Manager Eric Wedge broached that subject yesterday and it became hot news over the hot stove in Seattle. … Larry Stone has some thoughts on what the Mariners are asking of their fans. … Franklin Gutierrez looks like a different man according to Wedge and relayed by John McGrath.
• Sounders: Seattle worked on its fitness this week in camp. It was needed and seems to be paying off.
• That is it for this morning. As we said, we'll be covering high school basketball tonight, so we'll have a few tweets (@vinceg55). Until then …