There are a few reasons watching the Gonzaga basketball game at home is better than being in the McCarthey Center. Not many, sure, but some.
One came up halfway through Thursday night’s 92-62 West Coast Conference-opening win over Pepperdine.
If you were sitting high up in section 113, you might have been wondering why the Waves, 4-8 coming in, were hanging with the undefeated Zags in the first half. After all, 20 minutes in, Gonzaga led by just seven.
At home, you got that questioned answered. And from a reputable source: assistant coach Tommy Lloyd.
It was Lloyd’s turn to do the halftime interview with the KHQ crew and when play-by-play man Greg Heister asked about the play of Pepperdine’s Lamond Murray, Jr., who had 13 of the Waves’ 37 points, Lloyd used the pulpit to deliver a sermon.
The subject? Lack of effort. Which, as any basketball fan knows, is the road to perdition.
“I’m not worried about (Murray) as much as I am about our overall effort,” preached Lloyd, the most veteran of Mark Few’s lieutenants. “We’re lackluster, we’re not hustling, we’re not sharing the ball.
“I thought we took about 10 selfish shots,” he continued, warming to the task. “I thought the ball was sticking in a bunch of guys hands. It’s not the Gonzaga way to play.”
Most headed-to-halftime interviews are brusque affairs, known for coaches saying little and explaining less. But Gonzaga’s home broadcasts deliver a slightly different product in that regard.
There isn’t a sideline reporter ready with a question or two as the head coach flies by, intent on getting into his team’s ears. On the KHQ GU broadcasts, an assistant coach puts on headphones and answers quick questions from Heister or analysts Dan Dickau and Richard Fox.
Some end up being hallelujah choruses. Others, like this one, broadcast a message. And those watching on TV get to hear it.
If Lloyd outlined the problem, then Few must have delivered the fire and brimstone in the locker room, because it was a different Gonzaga team that emerged.
The Waves shot 51.5 percent from the floor in the opening half. That dropped to 36 percent after intermission. Pepperdine also nearly doubled its turnover total. It was GU’s defense that keyed 48-25 margin in the final 20 minutes.
How the Zags did that might not have been clear to the folks in the Kennel’s rafters, but Fox and Dickau were able to pinpoint the source.
“I thought the ball-screen defense for Gonzaga really improved in the second half,” Fox said during an elongated postgame show, made possible by the quick, 1-hour, 47-minute game.
Neither Fox nor Dickau really went into the Xs and Os of that improvement – for the most part the Gonzaga bigs aggressively attacked the Wave dribbler using the ball screen, using what coaches term “a hard hedge” to force a quicker decision – but they did identify the source.
“The intensity, the effort,” Fox said. “It really eliminated what had been productive offense for Pepperdine in the first half, that pick-and-roll.”
There was that and the improved defense on Murray, who didn’t score in the second half until almost 10 minutes had gone by. He finished with 19 points but also had a game-high six turnovers.
Fox pointed out Nigel Williams-Goss did most of the work, but Silas Melson and Josh Perkins also took turns guarding the Waves’ leading scorer. Though they were never alone.
“Team effort,” is how Fox put it and he expounded on the help-side, or off-ball, defense, something he’s praised all season.
As the game’s margin grew, so did the banter among the trio, focusing on anything from Dickau’s interesting choice of suits to Fox’s inability to talk Few into calling a lob play for him back in the day.
And there was time to address the question de jour: Can 13-0 Gonzaga stay undefeated throughout the regular season?
Heister asked Dickau point-blank. The former NBA guard dribbled around an answer for more than a minute, finally forcing Heister to interject, “so, you’re not going to answer the question?”
Dickau laughed and admitted he had been evading an answer. But finally, they all agreed it was possible but Saint Mary’s, BYU, San Francisco, they all present problems, especially on the road.
As Fox said, “road games in league are a different animal.”
So are halftime television interviews at Gonzaga home games.
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