A sampling from the past week of entries in The Spokesman-Review blog SportsLink at spokesman.com/ sportslink.
Gonzaga took all the guesswork – other than seeding, opponent and location — out of Selection Sunday by winning the WCC tournament title over BYU. Had the Zags lost, most pundits still had them in the NCAA field as an at-large team, but it would have been an uncomfortable few days waiting for (today’s) announcement. (I’m guessing an 8 or 9 seed. I’m pulling for a trip to San Diego).
GU did it with a near flawless first half, leading by as many as 21 before settling for a 17-point edge at the break. The cushion helped the Zags withstand BYU’s second-half rally for a 75-64 victory.
Gonzaga had two MVP candidates in Sam Dower Jr. and David Stockton. In fact, coach Mark Few said he’d have gone with co-MVPs. My ballot listed Stockton as MVP, mainly because of his last-second layup against Santa Clara that helped GU survive a quarterfinal scare. He also had 21 points vs. Saint Mary’s and was rock solid Tuesday.
Stockton and Dower, long-time roommates, enjoyed needling each other after the game. Dower had some stretches in which he missed from close range, but he made 23 straight free throws in the first two games – which adds to the scoring column but not to Stockton’s assist totals. (I’ll refrain from repeating my stance that passes leading to free throws need to be rewarded statistically. Oops, too late.)
Asked about their on-court connection, Stockton poked, “You mean like the connection of him missing bunnies for me? I’m kidding. He’s got great hands. He looks like he’s sleeping, but you know he’s ready. I trust throwing anything to him. He’s a naturally gifted scorer. It’s easy assists from a point guard’s point of view.”
Said Dower of Stockton swatting Anson Winder’s layup attempt: “That should be a SportsCenter Top 10. Little David, a block like that … I don’t even think I have a block like that.”
Few chimed in as well.
“I don’t think we need to be encouraging it” from the media,” Few cracked. “We want our 5-6 guys stripping guys, taking charges.”
Idaho’s ineptitude in the WAC tournament? It’s history. Senior Stephen Madison put in a masterful performance and his teammates stepped up in the final minutes as the Vandals vanquished the University of Missouri-Kansas City 73-70 in the WAC quarterfinals in Las Vegas. This was Don Verlin’s first win in the WAC tournament after going 0-5 to start his tenure at Idaho. And it was Idaho’s second win in this event since joining the WAC before the 2005-2006 season. It came at the right moment, too – UI will depart for the Big Sky this summer. “It feels awfully good, and Stephen and I enjoyed a special moment because we hadn’t gotten one yet,” Verlin said.
WSU basketball coach Ken Bone, when asked if he thought the program is still improving and could make an NCAA tournament in the near future?
“I think there are some young kids in Ike (Iroegbu) and Que (Johnson), and even though Josh Hawkinson didn’t play much I think he’s going to be a good, solid big in this league. But Ike and Que are good. A kid that we recruited out of Seattle (Tramaine Isabell) was the MVP of the state tournament. He’s a good kid, can really score and I think there are some really good young guards and we’ve got to get some bigs. That’s what we’re looking to recruit.”