With 9 minutes, 36 seconds left Saturday afternoon in Gonzaga’s 103-92 victory at Creighton, Zach Norvell hit a step-back 3-pointer. He screamed.
Nothing in particular. Just a scream of joy.
“He is feeling it,” Fox play-by-play voice Justin Kutcher said. You think?
What they saw …
Norvell was explosive after halftime in last year’s win over the Bluejays in Spokane, scoring 21 points and keying his offensive outburst for the rest of the season. A similar scenario played out in the Zags’ eighth win this season, as Norvell had just five points before halftime, all late.
The sideline reporter, Lisa Byington, asked Gonzaga coach Mark Few about it after halftime. That gave Few a chance to give her a lesson on Norvell’s microwave-like hot streaks.
He had another one to open the second half, finishing with a career-high 28 points.
He also went through an ice-maker stretch in the second half, missing four consecutive 3-pointers that helped keep Creighton (6-2) within hailing distance. With 3:05 remaining and No. 1 Gonzaga up by nine, Norvell settled for a long 3-pointer that barely drew iron.
That seemed to draw a scream from Few, who at least jumped up and down with clenched fists.
• Kutcher and analyst Donny Marshall may be college basketball’s antitheses to Bill Walton and whomever he is paired with. They were anything but obtrusive.
Kutcher hit the high notes when need be. A good example came midway through the second half, as each team flew up and down the court, scoring at will.
“Oh boy, is this one fun,” Kutcher said.
Marshall, the former University of Connecticut star, kept his analysis short and to the point, even though it showed at times he hasn’t watched Gonzaga play often.
“This was a good test for Mark Few’s team,” Marshall said, talking about how little the Zags have trailed this season, which is true. But it’s not as if they haven’t been challenged by Illinois, Arizona and Duke.
What we saw …
• Playing on the road is never easy, and when your first time on the opponent’s court comes before more than 17,000 in Omaha, Nebraska, the task is even harder.
And it is probably accurate to say in that environment, Few was wishing for a loosely called game.
After all, with two (Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall) of your top seven players out with injuries, the GU depth has been culled some.
But Few didn’t get his wish from the trio of Mike Eades, James Breeding and John Gaffney. But with Eades, an ACC referee considered one of the nation’s best by coaches, a tight whistle is expected, especially offensive foul calls.
The Zags were called for four in the first half – two on Rui Hachimura – and Eades had the call for three of them. Gonzaga spent the first 20 minutes mixing and matching their rotation and it showed.
“Mark Few told his guys, ‘Let’s be smart, but let’s be careful,’ ” reported Byington as the second half started, though because those things seem so similar, there must have been some miscommunication somewhere.
“Gonzaga is a team playing with a depleted roster,” she continued, “two injured players and three starters with a couple fouls. That affects the way they play this basketball game.”
Hachimura was limited to just 10 minutes before intermission, handcuffed by the two charges. He still finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Many of his – and everyone else’s – buckets came courtesy of Josh Perkins, who had 13 assists and just one turnover.
• No matter how well the announcing team did, it’s hard for them to overcome the flaws in Fox’s game presentation.
The network struggles with its college sports, most prominently with football but basketball as well.
The viewers missed part of the first half of this one when graphics concerning the players to watch covered the screen while the game was going on. Sort of makes it impossible to watch, doesn’t it?
There was a promo at 11:06 a.m. for the game, listing an 11 a.m. starting time. The game had not started. That was followed by a promo saying college football was up next. Unless we had all traveled back to before World War II, we weren’t going to be watching GU playing football.
You like replays? About all you saw were replays of dunks. Heck, one first-half dunk was shown four times. It was a nice play, but four replays?
And none of a flagrant foul against Creighton away from the ball on Brandon Clarke (27 points and 10 rebounds) with 1:07 left and Gonzaga leading by seven. We didn’t see it and Fox never showed it.
Follow the Zags to the tournament
Subscribe to our game day newsletter to stay up with the latest news.