TALES FROM THE GRIP
It's Sunday so we slept in a bit. Heck, it was almost 7 in the morning when we dragged ourselves out of our nice warm bed. But duty called, so we slipped on our slippers and headed to the home office and our computer. And what a bounty awaited. Stories from Gonzaga's slow-starting-but-ultimately-easy win over Santa Clara. More on WSU's defeat in Colorado. The Vandals, the Eagles and the Pirates. What fun. And, lest I forget, almost 500 votes on our reader survey. Read on.
• By the way, the survey is set to close at noon today. The name I would like to see win is on this post, but I'm good either way. Though I thought about invoking the time-honored "I'm-Dad-so-I-get-10-votes" rule, but decided against it. You're voices will be heard. ... The best game I watched yesterday was the Stanford four-overtime win at Oregon State, not because the teams were all that good – I really think this is a year Gonzaga would win the Pac-12 running away – but because of the way the kids had to battle through fatigue and will themselves over the top. Two things caught my eye: Johnny Dawkins gave over a time out in the fourth overtime to doing cheers, giving his tired players a boost of energy; and Dick Davey, the former Santa Clara head coach and now a Cardinal assistant, ran almost every time-out huddle, with Dawkins standing outside with the other assistants. ... Also watched the Cougar defeat – not going to go into that one too much here – and GU's win. Early on in the Gonzaga game I had a flashback to a time gone by when Santa Clara's matchup zone was giving the Zags fits. I went all the way back to when Fred Litzenberger was a Fresno State assistant under Boyd Grant and the Bulldogs used his zone to near-perfection. Litzenberger, who also coached at Eastern Washington a long time ago, was one of the pioneers of the matchup and spread the faith as much as he could. I heard him talk at a coaching clinic once and he told a story about a player complaining that what Litzenberger was asking him to do was impossible. "I know it's impossible," Litzenberger said he replied, "but you have to do it." And it hit me. Good coaches get players to do the impossible. The Broncos tried to do that last night, jumping out to a 10-0 lead, but Gonzaga is just so much better, beating the Zags at home turned out to be an impossibility for Santa Clara.
• Washington State: Christian posted twice after the Cougars' 71-60 defeat at Colorado yesterday, saying in the second one he had an early flight and wouldn't be able to post this morning. So we'll help out and give you the Pac-12 links here as well. But before we get there, we'll cover the WSU items, including Christian's story in today's S-R. ... It's funny, but the Denver Post didn't cover the game last night, linking to the Daily Camera story on its website. But there is this column on the paper's site this morning. ... Here's the Associated Press story from the game. ... There is a football players' meeting scheduled in Pullman today and besides Mike Leach exhorting his players to get to class – most of the one-on-one meetings (and chewouts) have been academically oriented so far – the assistant coaching staff reportedly will be introduced. Maybe there will be an official announcement of the defensive coordinator today, about the only spot yet to be filled. ... As we linked yesterday, former Cougar Klay Thompson had his best NBA game yet in the Warriors loss at LA – in front of his dad. ... The Washington State women lost to Colorado at home yesterday, the Cougars' first Pac-12 loss and it was a tough one. ... Around the conference, Stanford did outlast the Beavers in Corvallis, winning 103-101 in four overtimes. Oregon State's inability to execute any other offensive set than a high screen for Jared Cunningham killed it after regulation. ... Oregon hosts California today and USC hosts Arizona. ... Washington snapped its five-game road losing streak, holding off Utah 57-53 in Salt Lake City. ... UCLA rode big Josh Smith – and he's big enough to literally ride, I'm sure – to a 75-58 win over Arizona State. ... Oregon's football program is on track to compete for the national title year in and year out, just like the best in the SEC. ... Washington is trying to rebuild its defense, with Justin Wilcox given the tough task.
• Gonzaga: I stand by my earlier assessment. The Zags would be my favorite to win the Pac-12 this season. Heck, St. Mary's and BYU would probably also finish in the top four or five. That's not an indictment of the Pac-12 – well, yes, it is in a way, with all the resources the conference's schools enjoy – as much as it is a recognition of the reality big-time college basketball is about the guy at the helm of the program more often than not. And Mark Few has it going at GU. The Bulldogs may lose here and there, but this is the West Coast's deepest team and they proved it last night as they wore down overmatched Santa Clara, 82-60. Here is Jim Meehan's story. ... The Zags are so good, Marquise Carter hasn't played well and the GU backcourt hasn't missed a beat, as chronicled in John Blanchette's column. ... Here is freelancer Howie Stawick's piece from the game in the News Tribune and one from Ryan Collingwood in the Mercury News. And here's the Associated Press story. ... BYU had little trouble with USF in Provo, winning 81-56.
• Eastern Washington: The Eagles needed a win in a big way and they got a big one, pulling away in the second half to defeat Northern Arizona 76-59. Jim Allen has the S-R's coverage. ... The Arizona Daily Sun has this story.
• Whitworth: After winning in triple overtime Friday night, one could wonder how much the 11th-ranked Pirates would have in the tank. A lot it seems, as they pounded No. 16 Pacific Lutheran 80-67. Here is the News Tribune's story.
• Chiefs: Jess Brown posted this blog item on Spokane's 4-2 road win over Seattle. The Chiefs return to the Arena for a three-game home stand.
• Preps: Not a lot here except this real interesting story from the Seattle Times about how pay-to-play fees are limiting some opportunities.
• That's all for this morning. Remember, our poll is scheduled to close at noon (if I did everything right with the program). The next time we post, we'll give you the winner. Until then ...