What do you do for dessert after feasting on the competition in the nation’s best holiday tournament?
Gonzaga served up a large portion of roast Bison, routing visiting North Dakota State 102-60 before the usual 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Monday night.
But the game was just a backdrop for many discussions between play-by-play voice Greg Heister and his usual analysts, Dan Dickau and Richard Fox.
Their No. 1 topic, at least early? The Zags’ No. 1 ranking, the spot they ascended to when the polls were released earlier in the day.
What they saw …
• At the end of the Gonzaga bench was Killian Tillie, out since the season began with a stress fracture in his ankle. Next to him, for the first time this season, sat reserve guard Geno Crandall, his right arm in a sling, courtesy of a broken hand suffered at Sunday’s practice.
But, surprisingly, if you tuned into the game not knowing about Crandall’s injury, you didn’t hear the news until five minutes into the broadcast on KHQ. It took a backseat to the poll news.
• The way the game turned out, it may have been the right choice. North Dakota State challenged early then disappeared midway through the first half. The result was another runaway for the No. 1-ranked team.
That ranking was something Heister never let the viewers forget, calling them “the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs” often.
• It’s not as if Heister didn’t lead the discussion toward Crandall’s injury. Early in the second half, with the GU edge in the 30-point range, Heister asked how the six weeks or so without Crandall will affect Josh Perkins.
“You think about these big games coming up,” said Fox, alluding to Creighton, Washington, Tennessee and North Carolina in the next 20 days. “A lot is going to be asked of Josh. He’s the primary ballhandler and facilitator.”
Fox may have expounded more, except he was interrupted by another of Brandon Clarke’s five blocked shots. It was part of an 18-point (making all of his nine shots), eight-rebound night for the San Jose State transfer, who has a nation-leading 30 blocks this season.
Dickau took over the chore, highlighting a way in which Perkins – 10 points, six assists, one turnover – has built on his game this season.
“Simple decisions lead to easy buckets for Gonzaga,” said Dickau, who knows a little about point guard play. “Josh Perkins has grown tremendously in that this year, making the simple and easy play.”
• Part of the discussion about the Maui championship was a summary of the contributions of Rui Hachimura, Zach Norvell and reserve Jeremy Jones. The first two were all-tournament selections, while Jones was one of the keys to the first-round win over Illinois.
Later, Fox explained one way in which Hachimura, with 18 points Monday, has improved this season.
“Hachimura does such a good job before the ball even gets there,” Fox said, “of getting to the spot in the paint where he wants to get the ball.”
What we saw …
• Fox mentioned early on he was still dealing with a Thanksgiving hangover, which seemed appropriate as the team he was watching seemed to have one as well. And who can blame Gonzaga for getting off to a slow start? In Hawaii, the Zags faced Illinois, Arizona and Duke, all major programs from major conferences. The Bison, from the Summit League, don’t carry the cachet of recent foes. Or the record, having lost four of their six games.
With 10 minutes left in the first half, NDSU led 19-18.
But a few knocked-down shots, a call or two, some stops and all of sudden Gonzaga’s hangover was gone. As was the North Dakota State lead. A 19-0 run over six minutes made this one a runaway.
• One aspect of the KHQ broadcast that is usually illuminating is the halftime interview with an assistant coach.
Donny Daniels had the duty and, after talking about the game, shared something Mark Few had told his team before the game.
“Like coach said, we’re No. 1 in the country,” Daniels said to the camera, headphones and a microphone on, “but let’s be No. 1 in effort, let’s be No. 1 in determination and knowing the scouting report. Let’s be No. 1 in those areas.”
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