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Grip on Sports: Gonzaga makes short work of Pacific, Eastern upsets Montana and the night is halfway successful for area college teams

Gonzaga forward Filip Petrusev (in center) grabs a rebound during the second half of a college basketball game, Thurs., Jan. 10, 2019, at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Filip Petrusev (in center) grabs a rebound during the second half of a college basketball game, Thurs., Jan. 10, 2019, at the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Thursday was a busy night in college hoops around these parts but, ultimately, it was a 50/50 proposition. Half of the area’s Division I teams won, half lost. Read on.

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• We’ll start with Gonzaga’s 67-36 win over visiting Pacific. A wise – alec – man wrote last night “The Pacific Tigers seemed to have one goal Thursday night – and it may not have been to come home with a win. It seemed not getting run out of the McCarthey Athletic Center was even more important. They accomplished that, even in a 31-point loss.”

We stand by that statement. Keeping the score down seemed to be the Tigers’ goal, not winning. How could anyone expect to beat Gonzaga trying to score points only in the final 10 seconds or so of each shot clock? The fifth-ranked Zags are too long, too quick, too tough to score against consistently in that short of span. But that was Damon Stoudamire’s game-plan last night. It didn’t work.

One could make an argument the Zags defense hasn’t been as good this season as, say, the NCAA runner-up year. After all, that GU team finished first in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive stats and this year the Bulldogs entered conference play ranked in the 50s.

Stats are deceptive at times. The Zags have had their defensive lapses, sure, but they also played some of the better offensive teams in the nation during the nonconference season. Duke, North Carolina, Tennessee and Creighton are all ranked in the top 10 in Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive statistics. And Gonzaga played three of those schools without Killian Tillie – another rim protector – and Geno Crandall – possibly their best on-ball defender.

When the WCC season is done, let’s see what the statistics say. After last night’s win, the Bulldogs are 35th. And rising.

• This hasn’t been the best season for Eastern Washington. The Eagles were one game away from the NCAA tournament last year but they entered last night’s game with Montana, the team that kept them out of the promised land last March, with just three wins.

Now they have four after they shot down the Griz, 78-71 in Cheney.

• Speaking of tough seasons, Washington State certainly is having another one. It continued last night with a 92-60 blowout in Boulder. The Cougars have never won at Colorado since the Buffs entered the Pac-12 and with leading scorer Robert Franks still sidelined with a hip problem, Washington State wasn’t going to get its first win there – or its first win outside of Pullman this season.

• Idaho’s season has been up-and-down, though more about the latter. The Vandals’ 4-12 record reflects that. The 12th loss came last night in Moscow as they lost contact with Tyler Hall at times down the stretch and the Montana State senior made them pay in leading the Bobcats to a 77-67 Big Sky win.

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Gonzaga: Mark Few seemed a bit perplexed in postgame interviews. Talking with reporters after the easy win he said “We really only had to defend that last 6 or 8 seconds of every possession, so we had to be really solid there.” That’s part of Jim Meehan’s game analysis. … Jim also has the keys to GU’s easy win. … Colin Mulvany has the photo report. … The guys in the office put together the highlights and a recap. … And, yes, I had my TV Take. … Around the WCC, BYU had little trouble with Portland, especially in the second half.

WSU: Without Franks, the Cougars can struggle to score. But no matter who is on the court, they struggle to guard. And that showed last night in the 92-60 loss. Theo Lawson has a story about Franks’ absence, first revealed by the senior forward on Twitter. … It was Colorado’s first conference win after two road losses. … Will the Cougars rely on another senior transfer quarterback? … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Washington showed last night it has to be in the title picture with an easy win at Utah. The Utes had been shooting well. Not against the Huskies. … Oregon had the game in hand. UCLA was done. And then, in the final minute, it all changed. The Bruins ended up winning in overtime. … Oregon State is 2-0 in conference play after getting past USC in overtime. Trey Tinkle did not play. Bennie Boatwright certainly did. … The injury to Arizona’s Justin Coleman isn’t all that bad. … In football, Oregon is getting back one of its best linebackers. … Stanford’s quarterback is also coming back. … Utah has settled on a new offensive coordinator.

EWU: Ryan Collingwood was busy with football yesterday (and other things), sharing the news coach Aaron Best has agreed to a contract extension and that quarterback Gage Gubrud, who is asking the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility, has entered his name in the NCAA transfer database. … Jason Shoot filled in on the basketball game coverage. There is also a story from the Missoulian. … The women’s basketball team went into Missoula and picked up a victory.

Idaho: Peter Harriman has the story of Idaho’s loss to Montana State. … Former UI quarterback Jake Luton has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Luton will use that season at Oregon State.

NIC: The Cardinals picked up a win in the first wrestling dual meet since Pat Whitcomb was replaced as head coach. Ryan was there and has this story.

Chiefs: Spokane picked up another forward.

Preps: There was gymnastics and wrestling last night, as well as a few girls and boys basketball games. … Steve Christilaw has a story on Ferris coach Sean Mallon. … The WIAA has a couple of amendments in front of its Rep Assembly that could change the classification landscape in the state.

Seahawks: So what are the biggest questions the Hawks face before next season? … Russell Wilson is not only an award winner, he’s also going to be a Yankee again. At least for a few days.

Mariners: We knew the M’s were looking for a few veterans to bridge the step-back year with the years when the youngsters would be in charge. They signed a couple yesterday.

Sounders: Ozzie Alonso is gone. The last of the original Sounders (this edition of them, anyway).

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• Hey, before we forget, we have Larry Weir’s most recent Press Box pod to pass along. He talks with KHQ’s Sam Adams. … Speaking of talking, we'll be on with Dennis Patchin this afternoon. The good old 3-to-6 p.m. show on 700 ESPN. You can listen here if you like. Until then …

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