A GRIP ON SPORTS
Senior days and the like mean a lot in college. The emotional lift of honoring someone or a group of someones who have given a lot to your institution can propel a team to a victory or cause a sentimental hangover. We saw examples of both just last night. Read on.
• There wasn't much doubt who the better team was Saturday night in the McCarthey Athletic Center. Nine times out of 10, this year's Gonzaga team is going to handle an understaffed Loyola Marymount team. But throw in the hoopla of senior night and a loss would seem unfathomable. There was even a special guest, Kelly Olynyk, who would have been a senior if he had not left early for the NBA, where he should make enough money to underwrite Saturday's festivities. And the usual 6,000 in attendance were not disappointed, as the Zags went on to an 86-67 victory. But there is a flip side to emotion. It was on display in Moraga, where the Gaels hosted a reeling BYU team with second place in the WCC on the line. Prior to the game St. Mary's retired Matthew Dellavedova's jersey, one of the quickest jersey retirements I can remember. The Cleveland rookie was in the building – it's the NBA's All-Star weekend – and fired up the crowd – and the Gaels with his pregame speech. And St. Mary's promptly went out and built a 14-point lead. Game over, right? Nope. The emotional lift wore off after halftime, the Cougars' zone locked down on St. Mary's offense and BYU rallied for a 60-57 victory. Which just proves one thing. Emotions are great but most times a timely 15-foot jumper is better.
• St. Mary's defeat means Gonzaga will head to the road for its final four regular season games already assured of a piece of the WCC title. The Zags hold at least a four game lead in the loss column on everyone else in the league. A win in one of their final four games – at USD, BYU, Pacific and St. Mary's – or a loss by the Cougars, Gaels or USF and GU takes the title alone. And it is assured of the top seed in the WCC tournament.
• WSU: The Cougars aren't the tallest team in the Pac-12 and Stanford (pictured) just may well be. That height disparity can manifest itself in different ways though Saturday night it showed in WSU's shooting statistics. Getting good looks against lengthy opponents is not easy. Jacob Thorpe has more on the size differential and WSU's 69-56 loss to Stanford in this game story. Jacob also has video of the postgame as well as a morning post today. ... The Cougar baseball team evened its record at 1-1 with an extra-inning win at No. 1 Cal State Fullerton. As a sportswriter, I report that score dispassionately. As a UC Irvine baseball alum, I'll tell you it's always a good day when the Titans lose.
• Gonzaga: When Olynyk pulled off his jacket and revealed his old Gonzaga jersey, the Kennel Club went nuts. Though, as Thomas Clouse's story shows, they go nuts a lot. And, given some recent incidents in college hoops, that's always under scrutiny by GU administrators. ... Jim Meehan has the coverage of Gonzaga's victory in this game story and blog post from last night. He'll also have a morning-after post today. ... Tyler Tjomsland has a bunch of photographs from Saturday's game. ... The GU women saw their long WCC winning streak snapped in Provo as BYU prevailed 62-52. Gonzaga returns home for its final four conference games. ... Back to the men, San Diego shot down Pacific in Stockton, Portland celebrated senior night with a win over Pepperdine, San Francisco got past Santa Clara and, as we said before, BYU upset St. Mary's in Moraga.
• EWU: If Eastern shoots better than 50 percent from beyond the arc, I would say the Eagles chances of winning a Big Sky home game are right around 99.7 percent. Or 100 percent yesterday, when they hit 16 of 30 en route to an 84-65 win over Northern Arizona. Jim Allen has the background in this game story. ... Sacramento State traveled down the road to Portland and hung a 72-65 loss on the Vikings. ... Northern Colorado stayed within shouting distance of league-leading Weber State with a 83-73 home win over Montana State. ... Montana dropped to 7-7 in conference (tied with Eastern, Montana State and Portland State for fifth) with a 74-69 loss at North Dakota. ... Idaho handled woeful Southern Utah on the road, 75-65. ... One of Eastern's great players from days gone by will have his jersey number retired. And, no, they didn't use Roman numerals then.
• Idaho: Poor Stephen Madison. He is having one of the better senior years in Vandal history and he's doing it for a 10-16 team. The forward scored 42 points last night but UI still lost, 89-88 at Utah Valley, dropping to 4-8 in WAC play. Josh Wright has more in this blog post.
• Whitworth: The Pirates played woefully for 39 minutes. They trailed George Fox by 11 with less than a minute left. Then they rallied, tied the game and won 105-101 in overtime. Thomas Clouse has all the details in this game story.
• Chiefs: It's not often a WHL team wins a game 7-0. But that's what the Chiefs did last night against Tri-City. Chris Derrick has the story and a blog post on the easy win. ... It's not often a WHL team wins 16 consecutive games either, but that's what Portland has done. ... Everett couldn't get past Seattle.
• Preps: What a difference a couple days can make. Ferris frittered away a late lead Thursday night and surrender the GSL title to Gonzaga Prep. But Saturday the Saxons got a measure of revenge in a 55-54 victory to win the District 8 4A title. Greg Lee was at G-Prep and has the story. ... The Gonzaga Prep girls won the district championship with an 86-47 rout of Central Valley. ... We also have roudups of boys and girls basketball action from Saturday. ... Mike Vlahovich was at the 2A wrestling regionals and has this story. ... The Mead girls took a big step toward the state 4A gymnastics title.
• Mariners: No matter how you feel about it, the M's reached an agreement with Justin Smoak and avoided arbitration again. ... Erasmo Ramirez is out throwing, hoping to earn a rotation spot. He'll battle newcomer Scott Baker, among others, for a spot. ... Charlie Furbush (pictured) is ready for another year in the bullpen. ... Robinson Cano can swing the bat.
• Sounders: The Sounders hope to use balance in their attack this season. ... One of the guys expected to help, Clint Dempsey, is going to finish his loan to Fulham under a new manager. ... Sigi Schmid has some things to say, again.
• Olympics: One of the standouts in these Games is a snowboarder with Sandpoint roots.
• Sunday morning. There have been a lot of songs written about Sunday morning. I just can't think of any right now. You are on your own about that. Until later ...