It does make sense.
Before the start of Gonzaga’s 104-67 blowout of Texas Southern in front of the usual 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center, Greg Heister and the SWX broadcast crew took turns praising the Tigers.
They did have something to pin their hype on. Earlier this week, Texas Southern had upset Baylor, 72-69 on the Bears’ home court.
As Heister said before the tip, “on paper, it’s turned into a very interesting matchup.”
But it turned out Texas Southern was nothing more than a paper tiger. At least against a team the caliber of third-ranked Gonzaga.
What they saw …
• Brandon Clarke is not only already one the Kennel Club’s favorite players, he’s also becoming one of the favorites of analysts Dan Dickau and Richard Fox.
His back-to-back dunks early in the second half not only showed off the 6-foot-8 redshirt junior’s athleticism, but triggered a bit of Heister hyperbole.
“Make room on that preseason All-Wooden Award list,” Heister exclaimed after the second high-flying dunk. “There will be a fourth Zag coming to a theater near you.”
Could be. But maybe it should be Josh Perkins.
The senior point guard didn’t have a turnover in GU’s opener. He had two against the Tigers but also had a career-high 11 assists and 19 points. If this is senioritis, maybe everyone should catch it.
Dickau, who knows a few things about point guard play, spent much of the second half praising Perkins’ maturity and decision-making process. And, when Perkins didn’t display that latter quality, Dickau was quick to point that out as well.
• Perkins also teamed with Clarke to keep Gonzaga’s offense humming in the first half.
When Rui Hachimura and Zach Norvell fell into early foul trouble and sat for most of the first half, Fox wondered where the scoring would come from.
He answered his own question, singing the praises of the Zags’ high pick-and-roll game which featured Clarke as the screener and Perkins as the beneficiary.
“It’s so difficult to guard,” Fox said as the duo combined on almost every possession late in the first half, either creating offense for each other or allowing Perkins to find an open teammate.
• Clarke also showed his Johnathan Williams-like rim protection with six blocked shots to go with his double-double of 13 rebounds and 19 points. And Clarke has one other similar attribute.
“He’s showing he’s got a (Williams-like) motor too,” Heister said.
• Even with Norvell scoring only eight points and Hachimura 17 in 20 minutes – he had 33 in the opener – the Zags went over the century mark in points for the second consecutive time. It is only the second time in the school’s history that’s happened, according to Heister.
“You know, Greg, I think this team can score,” Fox said, sarcastically.
What we saw …
• There were way too many head-shaking whistles that seemed to perplex players and coaches from both teams. And the broadcast crew.
With a little more than five minutes left in the first half, Texas Southern’s 7-foot-2 center Trayvon Reed picked up a foul. A replay was shown.
“I didn’t see a lot of contact there,” Heister said after watching it. Both Fox and Dickau agreed, with Fox saying it was about the fourth time he and Dickau had looked at each other and rolled their eyes. And there was still 25 minutes left to play.
It didn’t get much better, with the Tigers’ coach Johnny Jones and others showing displeasure with the decisions made by Ken Ditty, Horace Shields and Eric Boyce.
• Gonzaga’s depth was the unsung hero in this one. The early foul trouble – Norvell actually had three in the first half – meant more minutes for Jeremy Jones and Filip Petrusev.
Jones took advantage of it early. He scored five points in seven first-half minutes.
And Petrusev? He got it going in the second half on the offensive end, chipping in with 14 points, which included two 3-pointers for the 6-11 freshman.
The depth helped the Zags avoid Baylor’s fate, as the Big 12 team actually led Texas Southern by 17 points before wilting down the stretch.
“You may have done that against Baylor,” Heister noted early in the second half as the Bulldogs extended their lead to 24 points, “but it’s going to be tough to do it tonight against No. 3 Gonzaga.”
And that’s not an overstatement.
Follow the Zags to the tournament
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