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A great game between two great teams in a great atmosphere, but it didn't have a great ending for Gonzaga.
GU struggled with late-game possessions offensively and couldn't hold off No. 3 Arizona, which claimed a 66-63 overtime win Saturday at the McKale Center, one of the loudest buildings I've ever experienced.
My unedited game story is below. Day-after post in the a.m.
West powers Gonzaga and Arizona hook up Saturday at McKale Center for one of the best non-conference matchups of the college basketball season. Both teams are 7-0. GU is No. 9; Arizona No. 3. Both have Final Four ambitions. The winner could have a decided edge in seeding when Selection Sunday rolls around.
I checked in recently with Byron Wesley, whose USC teams went 1-4 vs. Arizona, 0-2 at McKale Center, and Wesley's father, Byron Sr., and put together a feature on the Zag senior wing that will run in Saturday's S-R. Here's a link. In case you missed it, John Blanchette wrote about the GU-Arizona series, past and present in Friday's S-R.
You can find numerous Wildcats stories from the Arizona Daily Star here.
More on the matchup below.
Spokane ended a trend of nearly two seasons worth of fairly comfortable to absolute blowout wins (read: all by double figures) by edging Arizona 73-66 on Saturday. That made the victory big on two fronts: 1). It came against the best franchise and No. 1 ranked team in the AFL. 2). It came in a close contest. Those have been rare for the Shock, and most of the time the outcome hasn't been favorable.
The trend should have ended in the season's fifth game but Spokane gave up a Hail Mary touchdown pass on the final play to fall to Cleveland 52-50. Other than that, Spokane's other six losses this season were by at least 10 points. Four of Spokane's five losses last season were by less than 10 points, including the 65-57 playoff loss at Arizona that ended the Shock's season.
I took a look at the numbers to lead off this week's Shock notebook. There's also a few paragraphs on James Ruffin's breakout season.
Spokane trailed by 21 points in the first quarter and quarterback Erik Meyer was uncharacteristically wild early.
Somehow, the Shock dug out of the hole behind a play-making defense and Meyer, who warmed up to throw six touchdown passes and run for two more in a wild 73-66 victory over the Arizona Rattlers on Saturday night at the Arena.
Spokane improved to 9-7, 8-2 in games with Meyer as the starting quarterback. Arizona dropped to 14-2.
My unedited game story is below.
One of the AFL's best rivalries, if not thee best, resumes tonight at the Arena: Spokane vs. Arizona.
With a healthy Erik Meyer, there is a growing sense that the Shock could be rounding into form at the right time, but they could use some visual proof. They've been good, very good, at times this season but a win over the top-ranked Rattlers would mean a ton for the Shock's confidence coming down the home stretch.
Spokane is back on the practice field after last week's bye. We checked in with the Shock on the importance of Saturday's home game with Arizona, how players spent the bye week and updated the health of Adron Tennell and the status of Ryan Cave.
It's all in my weekly Shock notebook.
Spokane was no match for the Arizona Rattlers, committing six turnovers in a 70-38 road loss Sunday in Phoenix.
The Shock (5-4) sputtered offensively for the second straight game without injured quarterback Erik Meyer. Rashaad Carter got the start at quarterback, but was pulled after three possessions resulted in just seven points. He moved back to his usual position of wide receiver. Donovan Porterie came on in relief but he had four turnovers on his first four possessions.
The setback dropped Spokane out of first place in the Pacific Division. San Jose (6-3) visits Spokane on Friday.
Game recap below.
Spokane Shock coach Andy Olson's pre-season checklist was for his team to be more disciplined, cut down penalties and trim turnovers. Those items went without checkmarks in a 68-49 loss to Arizona on March 23.
Those items are back on the agenda as the Shock, after a bye last week, prepare for San Jose, a key Pacific Division contest. Here's our weekly Shock notebook.
The two teams are expected to battle for the division title.
From Pullman — Spring practice is just days away for the Washington State football team and the Cougars are already getting ready. And so is the media. WSU released its Spring roster on Monday and we've got a post detailing the differences we could find between the roster now and at the end of the 2013 season. Coaches Mike Leach and Mike Breske also appeared on Cougar Calls with Bill Moos yesterday to talk about the team. We've got some highlights from that discussion here. Moos also touched on the ongoing coaching search, something that we have a story on here. Speaking of coaches, former WSU coach Kelvin Sampson has emerged as a leading candidate for the Houston job.
About the only question in the closing minutes was whether Gonzaga would suffer its worst NCAA tournament loss. They didn't, but it hardly eased their pain as the Bulldogs were crushed by Arizona 84-61 Sunday at Viejas Arena.
GU's 87-63 loss to Maryland in 1995 — the school's first NCAA trip — remains its most lopsided. This one wasn't close as Gonzaga couldn't handle with Arizona's pressure defense and coughed up 21 turnovers, leading to 31 Wildcats' points.
Przemek Karnowski had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Kevin Pangos played through a sprained ankle to make four 3s and finish with 12 points. But the Bulldogs made just 41 percent of their shots and scored only 27 points in the second half.
Gonzaga, back in its familiar role as NCAA tournament underdog, takes on No.-1-seeded Arizona tonight in San Diego.
The Zags have pulled more than their share of tourney upsets — No. 7 Minnesota, No. 2 Stanford, No. 6 Florida in 1999, No. 7 Louisville and No. 2 St. John's in 2000, to name several — but they've never knocked off a No. 1. They're 0-5.
They've come close twice, falling to No. 1 UConn 67-62 in 1999, 77-62 to Michigan State in 2001, 96-95 in double OT to Arizona in 2003, 99-78 to North Carolina in 2009 and 87-65 to Syracuse in 2010.
Here's our coverage: My game preview, my notebook and look back at the memorable 2003 contest, and John Blanchette's column on a couple of 7-footers. A capsule look at the teams and keys to victory below.
In-game updates on twitter tonight @srjimm.
I'm pretty sure this game involving a team from Arizona and a team from Spokane isn't the one grabbing all the headlines (see NCAA basketball tournament), but it's a big one nonetheless.
The Spokane Shock and Arizona Rattlers resume their rivalry today in Phoenix. Both teams are 1-0 and both have been at or near the top of the AFL through the years. Arizona has ascended to the top the last two years. Spokane won the AFL crown in 2010. Most of those years, the winner had to go through the other to get there.
Here's my game preview.
From Pullman — That 36-game losing streak to Washington? It wasn't even the longest drought the Washington State women ended this season. No, yesterday's invitation to the WNIT means WSU will be making its first postseason trip in women's basketball in 23 years. The Cougars will head all the way to Montana for their matchup against … Montana. While they're there maybe they can beat the Huskies again. A little late but here's a good piece illustrating just how good DaVonte Lacy was for the men this season.
From Pullman — It's St. Patrick's Day and you know what that means? This year it means March Madness is officially upon us. The NCAA tournament bracket has officially been set and followers of our Washington State and Pac-12 coverage can compete with other readers in our NCAA Tournament Challenge. Gonzaga will head to San Diego for a rematch with Oklahoma State. John Blanchette has a column on GU's seeding.
Six Pac-12 schools made the cut and Cal — which started conference play 5-0 and knocked off Arizona — will head to the NIT to face the Utah Valley team that Idaho just beat … Oregon State will play in the CBI … Arizona nabbed a No. 1 seed but still has some land mines to navigate … UCLA's loss to WSU just over a week ago didn't appear to register much with the selection committee, which granted the Bruins a 4 seed … Losing Spencer Dinwiddie didn't end Colorado's season and the Buffaloes are going dancing … Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins appears to have saved his job by guiding the Cardinal to the tournament … Oregon's late-season resurgence was enough to get the Ducks into March Madness … Arizona State will open up against Texas.
Having trouble coping with all the Madness? Jim Allen has some advice.
From Las Vegas — If you'll recall, the last team to beat UCLA was pesky Washington State. It's likely, therefore, that the Cougars played some small role in UCLA's victory over Arizona last night in the Pac-12 tournament championship game. Whether WSU's upset humbled the Bruins or merely caused coach Steve Alford to put the fear of extra suicides in his team, at the very least the Cougars can say they beat the conference champion.
From Las Vegas — I'm still here in Vegas (alack!) serving as a sort of reporter-talisman for the Idaho men's and women's basketball teams, which have both made it to today's WAC tournament finals so indulge me for linking my game stories from the men's and women's semifinal wins. Josh Wright has more in this blog post. If you haven't seen UI's Stephen Madison play before, turn in to ESPNU at 7 p.m. and check out the superb senior.
Oh, and if you're wondering why there is a picture of a mountain wearing a basketball jersey at the top of this post, that's 7-foot-5, 355-pound Sim Bhullar, the wall the Vandals will have to go through to make it to the NCAA tournament.
From Las Vegas — Day one of the Pac-12 is in the books and four teams are already out. One of those teams was Washington State, which saw its season end in a thrilling late-night match against Stanford. Here is our story from the game, as well as quotes and video of coach Ken Bone and DaVonte Lacy. While in town I also covered top-seeded Idaho's blowout of Chicago State in WAC women's action.
From Las Vegas — Today the Washington State men will take on Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament. Here's our advance on WSU's do or die situation. We'll also be covering the top-seeded Idaho women. Josh Wright has the preview here. We've also got the news that starting cornerback DaQuawn Brown has been arrested and will in all likelihood be dismissed from the team. Oregon will look to defend its tournament title.
Tha-tha-tha-that's all, folks!
From Pullman — Had my first flight out of the Pullman airport canceled so I don't have long before making the familiar journey up to Spokane. The final destination will be Sin City, the Land of Lost Wages. We'll be covering not only the Washington State men in the Pac-12 tournament — featured in our blog post here — but both Idaho teams in the Western Athletic Conference tournament … The Pac-12 announced its All-Conference teams today and there wasn't much crimson or gray to be found … Nor was there much purple and gold, on the first team at least, and Lorenzo Romar found the omission of his best player confounding … Arizona, however, had no shortage of honors … Ted Miller takes a look at the conference kickers …
From Pullman — The Washington State men's basketball team is hitting the road a little early, leaving Pullman today and heading to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 tournament. Their opponent will be Stanford. We touch on that and have some highlights in a blog post today … Bud Withers put out his Pac-12 All-Conference team … As did Percy Allen … Chris Foster says UCLA hasn't improved since sacking Ben Howland, but that's no reason to think they won't.
From Pullman — The Washington State seniors went out in style last night, upending UCLA in the regular season finale. We've also got video and quotes from the win. However, the laws of the universe required that the WSU women fall in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals to balance out the men's good fortune.
The day's biggest upset however was Oregon's win over No. 3 Arizona, which likely assures Oregon of an NCAA tournament berth … Stanford scraped out a much-needed win over Utah … Arizona State, California and Washington also came away with narrow victories.
From Pullman — Washington State knocked off No. 20 California last night to return to the Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament semifinals for the second time in three years. Thomas Clouse watched watched Lia Galdeira scored 28 points to lead the Cougars in their 91-83 win and has a game story from Seattle. The baseball team also won on Friday, taking a series opener from Texas State. Suiting up as Cougars for the final time in Pullman will be D.J. Shelton and Will DiIorio. A football player whose time at WSU has passed is getting ready for the NFL draft. Yesterday the State Senate passed a resolution honoring WSU's 1915 Rose Bowl team.
ESPN's Pac-12 blog takes a look at each team's safety depth … Washington's Spring practices may not be pretty … The Huskies are also getting ready to say goodbye to their seniors … The Ducks have one more chance to show they're legit, against No. 3 Arizona … Utah looks to cap an impressive late-season run against Stanford … The Beavers hope everything comes together against Arizona State … Cal and Colorado will have a lot of chips on the table in today's game.
From Pullman — For awhile it seemed that the USC game could very well be Washington State's last win of the season. Then last night they lost it thanks to a brutal second half. Here's our game story from the loss. Before the game former WSU safety Deone Bucannon met with the media to talk about his preparations for the upcoming NFL draft. We've got video of the All-American, as well as post game videos of a couple players and coach Ken Bone. We also had a blog post on former WSU RB/DB Clarence Williams who is on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot.
On the women's side the Cougars hit the century mark, again, in a win over Oregon to start of Pac-12 tournament play.
In the day's other game Washington fell to UCLA at home.
From Pullman — The vocal majority that despises a proposed NCAA football rule change that would give defenses 10 seconds to substitute got welcome news yesterday. The proposal has been tabled, effectively cast off into a sea of bureaucracy and red tape from which it will never emerge … Today the Washington State basketball team will do battle with USC in a titanic matchup ("Titanic" referring to the ship, not the forebears of the Greek Pantheon). We've got our Four Corners preview of the game and a local college basketball notebook … Former WSU football player Steve Broussard has been hired at SMU.
From Pullman — Just one more day until the Cougars take on Oregon in the Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament. Thomas Clouse will be covering the team, and he's got a story on the matchup. Washington State will have a pair of All-Conference players taking the court. Mr. Clouse has a story on Tia Presley and Lia Galdeira, and we've got a blog post as well … In our baseball notebook the Cougars respond to the NCAA inquiry into a player's eligibility .
Check out John Blanchette's movie reviews … Ted Miller breaks down the Pac-12 defensive ends … Washington had its first practice under new coach Chris Petersen … But a longtime captain is in trouble with the law … Oregon now has a winning record with yesterday's win over Arizona State … Stanford is hoping to help its tournament resume with a win over Colorado today … Arizona needs to avoid a letdown in the home stretch … Utah has one more shot to prove it can win on the road.
Deone Bucannon became an All-American at Washington State and there was little doubt that the safety would have a chance to show his stuff in the NFL. Because of his eye-popping combine numbers Bucannon could be picked pretty early in May's NFL draft. The experts seem to think Bucannon will go in the second or third round. A Cougar hasn't been drafted in the third round since Jason Hill in 2007 and if Bucannon can edge his way up to the second round he'll be the earliest Cougar picked since Marcus Trufant went No. 11 overall in 2003. In 2002 both Raonall Smith and Lamont Thompson were drafted in the second round out of WSU.
The Huskies have started Spring football and here are some notes from the first day … Stanford is also practicing and once again trying to replace some irreplaceable players … Arizona owes much of its success this season to a phenomenal freshman … The Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament field has been set, Thomas Clouse will be covering the action for the S-R.
Show me the money? Show him the diploma. Jason Monda's decision to turn his nose at a $200,000 signing bonus is the basis of our college baseball preview. The team split its double-header with Cal State Northridge yesterday.
The Pac-12 media was proven to be composed of geniuses once again when preseason favorite Arizona clinched the Pac-12 on Sunday, defeating Stanford to make it official … It wasn't easy but UCLA got by Oregon State at home … Their season is far from over so Arizona State fans will have time to brace themselves for life without Jahii Carson, who will enter the NBA draft …
The regular season is over for the WSU women's basketball team, which fell to No. 5 Stanford on Saturday. The Cougars will head to next week's Pac-12 tournament in Seattle as the No. 7 seed, and will play Oregon in the first round. WSU will need a very good showing to have a chance to make it to the Big Dance. ESPN's Charlie Creme projects just four Pac-12 teams to the NCAA tournament and WSU is not among them. Washington may have a chance, however, after upsetting No. 18 Cal on the road. The Huskies were led by freshman Kelsey Plum, yet again.
Former WSU pitcher Adam Conley is one of the Miami Marlins' best prospects. Conley picked up a Spring Training win yesterday.
From Seattle — The Washington Huskies left no doubt they were the better team on Friday night, teasing the Cougars with their sharp shooting and clamping down on the Washington State offense. The Huskies made of half their shots and the Cougars barely broke 30 percent. D.J. Shelton had a remarkably unique game, collecting 15 rebounds but going 0 for 10 on 3-pointers.
We’ve got a game story on WSU’s 72-49 loss and the box score. Adam Lewis places the fault at the failure to establish Shelton inside the paint and here is a game story from the UW perspective. Kevin Dowd says that rumors of Lorenzo Romar's demise are premature.
Today the Washington State Cougars will attempt to win their first Pac-12 road game since a 71-68 victory at Oregon State on Jan. 26, 2013. It was their only conference road win that season. They'll also hope to make it a sweep against rival Washington this season. We previewed that game in our Four Corners on Thursday … WSU's first win over UW was a season-changer for the Huskies … The Cougars sure could use a big performance from Que Johnson, who has been quiet of late … The women's team nearly pulled off a critical upset at No. 18 California but fell in overtime … The Bruins battled without two key players but Oregon's double-overtime win puts the NCAA tournament within the Ducks' crosshairs … The one they call "Zeus" is still climbing his Mt. Olympus … USC lost again. This time to USC.