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Grip on Sports: It was a night of wins, wins and more wins for the Inland Northwest’s college basketball teams

Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams blows past Loyola Marymount center Mattias Markusson on Thursday  in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams blows past Loyola Marymount center Mattias Markusson on Thursday in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • As Thursdays go, it couldn’t have been any better for the college basketball teams around these parts. Read on.

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• The area’s four men's Division I basketball teams hosted games last night. All four won. How’s that for success?

And, oh yes, after Gonzaga blew out Loyola Marymount, the Zags were able to watch USF upset Saint Mary’s, meaning they are alone atop the WCC standings for the first time this season.

• If we were forced to rank the wins from most surprising to least, Washington State’s 73-69 victory over Colorado would be atop the list.

Not just because the Cougars were coming off a series of losses in which they hadn’t been competitive much of the time, or because they had lost six consecutive times or because their coach was constantly bemoaning their toughness. Well, those things are a part of it.

But mainly because Washington State had rarely overcome adversity this year – not this season but this calendar year. Last night they did. Colorado somehow found a way to get to the free throw line 35 times – on the road for goodness sakes – and yet the Cougars won. And WSU’s point guard, Malachi Flynn, didn’t have an assist all night – though he did score a career-high 30 points. It’s not often a team can win when the guy who controls the ball for 80 percent of the possessions doesn’t set up his teammates for at least one bucket.

But Washington State found a way.

• The most significant victory? That would have to be Eastern’s. The Eagles needed to win to have a decent hope of playing in a postseason tournament. Last night’s 74-65 victory not only meant conference leader Montana won’t go through the Big Sky regular season undefeated, it also lifted EWU back to .500 overall, a benchmark it has to reach if it wants to continue a streak of postseason appearances.

• Gonzaga basically received a two-fer last night. Two of Loyola Marymount’s best players didn’t play due to injury and two hours after the Zags’ game ended, Saint Mary’s went down to defeat at USF. The Gaels’ two consecutive losses – after 19 straight wins – allowed the Bulldogs to leapfrog them into first place.

They better not lose, however.

The conference relies on the Rating Percentage Index ranking as a conference tournament tiebreaker and, despite the loss to USF, whose RPI was 159th going in, the Gaels’ RPI dropped just six spots, from 28 to 34. Gonzaga, which won as easily as possible, saw its RPI drop too, from 36 to 37. Loyola, which lost by 30 points, saw its RPI drop.

It dropped one spot, the same as GU’s.

Nice system you have there, NCAA.

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WSU: There wasn’t much of crowd at the Cougar win, but one person who was there was our Theo Lawson. He has the game story and video of postgame interviews with Ernie Kent and a couple players. … Colorado coach Tad Boyle took a gamble and it didn’t pay off.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, it seems like only last week when Washington was eyeing an NCAA at-large berth. Wait, it was. But three consecutive losses later, the latest last night 70-58 to Utah, has put a pin in the Huskies’ bubble. … UCLA is still a bubble team after its seven-point home win over Oregon State. … USC’s win was tougher and more important, as the Trojans held off Oregon to claim a 72-70 home victory. … The most exciting game of the night was in Tempe, where Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley wasn’t happy as his Sun Devils lost for a second time to Deandre Ayton and Arizona, this one 77-70. Both teams still have a path to the NCAA tournament. … Stanford gave away the first meeting with California. … There is some football news around the conference as well, with quarterback ratings at the forefront.

Gonzaga: It was impossible, really, for the Zags to beat down the Lions by much more, unless Mark Few wanted to be a jerk about it. So their RPI drops. And, just so you know I’m not just about the Bulldogs, BYU won at Pepperdine last night and its RPI dropped too. But back to McCarthey, where Jim Meehan has his game analysis and the three keys to victory. … John Blanchette chatted with Few about the RPI and what it represents. … Whitney Ogden was busy, writing a story about David Stockton’s week, another on Loyola’s injuries – no one seemed to know the Lions’ leading scorer was injured until it was discussed after the game – and Killian Tillie’s sore neck. … Dan Pelle has the in-depth photo report. … The guys in the office put together a highlights package. … Finally, I watched from home has have a TV Take. … The Gonzaga women won at Loyola Marymount and clinched their 13th conference regular season crown in the past 14 years. … Around the WCC, the Gaels went cold down the stretch after big man Jock Landale fouled out. That allowed USF to pull the upset. … Host San Diego was cold most of the second half and lost to Pacific. … BYU figured out a way to win at Pepperdine. Maybe its because the Waves are the conference’s worst team and have a lame-duck coach. … Santa Clara won at Portland.

EWU: The Eagles’ big win over visiting Montana tightened up the conference race a bit. Jim Allen has that and more in this game story. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Idaho State won at Sacramento State. … North Dakota picked up a home win over Southern Utah. … Northern Colorado also defended its home court. … Weber State had to go overtime but won at Portland State.

Idaho: It took the Vandals a while to put away Montana State. Peter Harriman has the game coverage.

Whitworth: The Pirates have a big weekend ahead at home. Jim Allen previews what is at stake for them.

Preps: The District 8 3A playoffs moved into the Spokane Arena last night and Dave Nichols was there. He has coverage of the girls and boys championship games, both of which were won by Kamiakin. … Post Falls had trouble getting south for their girls State 5A opening game, and the Trojans had trouble with Capital as well. But they won and advanced. … We can also pass along roundups of boys and girls playoff action around the area.

Seahawks: If you have questions, we can pass along some answers. … You like baby pictures?

Mariners: So just what type of season will Felix Hernandez have? If it isn’t a strong one, the M’s have little chance of breaking their postseason drought. … Maybe they will sign Tim Lincecum. Only about a decade too late. … What will the M’s do during spring training to shore up first base?

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• Another reminder. We won’t be here tomorrow. See you tomorrow night for another episode of Gonzaga basketball from the living room. Until then …


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