Sports

Blanchette: This Gaels beatdown deserved proper heckling

Spokesman-Review contributing sports columnist John Blanchette.  (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokesman-Review contributing sports columnist John Blanchette. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Zags’ play did the talking with students gone

So when does the first Kennel Clubber demand a tuition rebate?

At the next tent campout, do they burn an effigy of Jamie Zaninovich’s schedule maker to stay warm?

Surely we can expect the seniors to turn up at the next homestand in shirts that read, “Some townie got my seat for the Saint Mary’s game and all I get is a lousy degree.”

The Gaels-vs.-Gonzaga is must-see b-ball, whether it’s Thursday night, Saturday night or A Hard Day’s Night.

But someone decided to book the teams into McCarthey Athletic Center before school was back in session, and what the kids missed was not to be believed.

Imagine Santa showing up Christmas Day to reclaim the Razor Crazy Cart and My American Girl doll he dropped off the night before.

Inside the joint, the partisans were delirious over the Zags’ 73-51 pummeling of their West Coast Conference rivals, a turn of events foreseen by exactly no one.

But the “Zombie Nation” stompers back home with the folks were having their guts ripped out.

Oh, the heckles that could have been heckled.

The Gaels rolled into Spokane without head coach Randy Bennett, who’s serving a five-game suspension – part of the noogies dished out for the program’s indifference to some NCAA recruiting and practice protocols. Certainly no rule books would have been waved from the Kennel Club in derision, or a “Where’s your coach?” chant struck up.

Watching the carnage unfold on his big screen, Bennett may petition the NCAA for  a few extra snow days if this is what he has to come back to.

The Gaels got their first 3-pointer and first assist with less than 4 minutes remaining. That’s right, their first assist. Matthew Dellavedova always had two or three assists before the Gaels checked into their hotel.

But he’s in the NBA now. So a round of “Bring Back Delly!” would have been in order.

The Gaels’ top three “bigs” – Brad Waldow, Beau Levesque and Matt Hodgson – managed eight rebounds, total. Or as many as Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos snagged on one good foot.

Possibly this would have been pointed out to the guests.

And then there was the total domination of Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski, whose 15 points and nine rebounds were almost incidental to his McCarthey-record seven blocked shots.

Three of those were rejections of the thoroughly flummoxed Waldow, whose 1-of-8 nightmare was so complete that he even got rejected by 5-foot-11 David Stockton, too.

So, yes, “Where’s Waldow?” would have been on the soundtrack.

In the space of five days since Gonzaga had to lurch, grind and sweat out a herky-jerky victory over Santa Clara in the conference opener – after which it was advised here to get ready for 17 more such works of lesser art – the Zags have resumed their roles as world-beaters, or at least WCC-beaters.

Yes, they have yet to leave McCarthey. But the Bulldogs are down two starters and a third, Pangos, has a case of turf toe that makes it look like he’s running on three radials and a donut spare. They did get a little help from Sam Dower after the big fella had missed two games, but he was on the floor for just 7 minutes and on the stationary bike for 33.

You’ll recognize him next game. He’ll be in the yellow jersey out in front of the peloton.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few was one of those who’d “certainly planned on” a steady diet of angst and heartburn in the wake of the Zags’ personnel issues.

“But we played great defense,” he said, “and stuck with the game plan – and had all our guys absorb the plan to carry it out, including a few guys that’s been a challenge for.”

That’s likely a reference to transfers Gerard Coleman and Angel Nunez, whose athleticism – and eagerness to exploit it – can easily overwhelm the best intentions of any game plan. But Coleman seems to be getting back into rhythm after a stretch of funk, and Nunez’s integration into the rotation has been remarkably seamless.

But no Zag’s development has rivaled that of Karnowski, cited by his coach as “the best player on the floor tonight,” not that it wasn’t a unanimous call.

“Just like a lot of our guys from (Europe), he wants to be good, he’s willing to try and he’s smart,” Few said. “He’s been really good defensively and rebounding at a high level for about three weeks now. He’s been beating himself up about some of the finishes and free throws, but he really delivered tonight and he needed that for his confidence – because those are the only areas that have been lacking.”

Indeed, it was two Karnowski free throws that pushed the score to 68-38 with just less than 5 minutes to go – another moment that should have cued up the Kennel Club.

Alas, “Up by 30!” just doesn’t resonate when you’re chanting it at the TV in the family room.



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