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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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From a galaxy far, far away to a Kennel just down the street, Monday held some surprises

This photo provided by Disney/Lucasfilm shows stormtroopers in a scene from the new film,
This photo provided by Disney/Lucasfilm shows stormtroopers in a scene from the new film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." The movie releases in the U.S. on Dec. 18, 2015. (Film Frame/Lucasfilm via AP) ORG XMIT: CAET492 (Film Frame / Disney/lucasfilm)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Well, finally got to see “The Force Awakens” last night. The most amazing thing about it is Hans Solo is ... read on.

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• ... looking really old. Well, Harrison Ford is. But that is to be expected. The first Star Wars movie came out in 1977, when I was still in a college student, single and stupid. Only one of those things is still in existence. But I’m not so stupid as to reveal any spoilers, even if 97 percent of American males have already viewed the most-recent homage to their childhood. The most amazing thing about the film was the special effects – we saw it as a family in IMAX 3-D, so there went our Christmas budget for the year – even if J.J. Abrams couldn’t make Ford look 30 again. He did make the ships pop out of the screen with a detail that took your breath away. And, if you are wondering what this has to do with sports, well, nothing. It was just an incredibly exciting experience – the theater was packed and the audience was appreciative – I wanted to share.

• Oh, I have a sports connection. I missed the first half of the Zags game because of the movie. So I didn’t see them bomb away from the outside and blow up Pepperdine early (cue John Williams music). The Waves have been playing decently and Monday’s way-too-early WCC opener was expected to be a test for the depleted Bulldogs. It wasn’t. Which only feeds the narrative Gonzaga is still the Death Star compared to the rest of its conference. To which I say if that’s true, then no one has told Saint Mary’s or BYU yet. The Gaels also opened conference play last night, dominating an overmatched USF team. Which leads me to the much-too-early belief there is going to be two tiers to the WCC this season. Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and BYU will make up the top tier. The rest of the schools will be looking up. And even with its struggles in non-conference play, the Zags are still the team to beat. They just have been winning differently. I was checking out the NCAA statistics yesterday – it was a nerdy thing to do, I know, but it helped cut the nerdy Star Wars anticipation – and was surprised to see Gonzaga near the top in 3-point shooting defense and field goal percentage defense overall (in that one, the Zags are tied for 22nd, holding opponents to 37.8 percent from the floor). What happened to that other always-around-Gonzaga narrative? You know the one, that Mark Few’s teams can’t guard the 3? It’s been out there forever as well. This year the numbers – Gonzaga is seventh nationally in 3-point field goal percentage defense, with opponents making just 26 percent – belie that. The Zags may not be able to score 100 points anymore – they came up a point short last night – but they can lock you down these days. Even if they only have a rotation that is seven deep. And without one of the premier shot blockers in the nation around the rim. No wonder they are too good for their conference foes.

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• WSU: The Cougars took the flight to El Paso yesterday but the long trip was worth it. If only to see coach Mike Leach in a sombrero. Yep, it’s bowl season. Jacob Thorpe has the video of Leach in this morning's blog post. Jacob also has a look at the bowl largesse. ... We missed this yesterday, but Jim Allen has a piece on the Miami quarterback situation. ... The Times' Stefanie Loh has a story on the guy with the best name on WSU’s team. ... The Cougar basketball team begins the rough part of their schedule tonight, competing in the Diamond Head Classic before Pac-12 play opens. Jacob has an advance on their first Hawaiian opponent, No. 3 Oklahoma. ... There were a few Pac-12 in action on the basketball court yesterday, including Oregon and Oregon State, which both won. So did Stanford and USC. ... Klay Thompson spoke up for himself yesterday.

• Gonzaga: Jim Meehan was in the Kennel last night and he has the game story of the Zags’ 99-73 win. Dan Pelle was also there and he has this photo report. ... The Gonzaga women, playing without two players who were expected to be in the starting lineup before the season began, rolled over Pepperdine in Malibu, 74-57. The Zags did welcome back senior Shaniqua Nilles, who played 10 minutes in her first game back from a knee injury. ... On the men’s side, Portland, Saint Mary’s and Pacific also opened WCC play with wins last night. The rest of the schools will be gin conference play soon.

• EWU: Not only is Cooper Kupp a consensus All-American, he is also the Walter Payton Award winner. Jim Allen has the story. ... Felix Von Hofe is the Big Sky player of the week. ... The Eastern women lost to Boise State at home.

• Seahawks: Pete Carroll spent Monday as he usually does, making the rounds and fulfilling his media obligations. And, as usual, he was upbeat. He talked about the running back situation with Marshawn Lynch’s return still unknown. He praised the offense. He just did what he does. ... The offense is clicking. But if the Hawks want to get anywhere in the playoffs, the defense will still do the driving. ... Up this week, the Rams. ... The final seconds of the first half Sunday showed the Seahawks’ moxie.

• Mariners: The M’s have made a lot of moves this offseason. Here’s a way to keep up. ... There were more moves this week, though they were behind the scenes. ... The M’s spent a decent amount of money last season.

• Sounders: Seattle re-signed a couple players yesterday, as it began rebuilding its roster.

•••

• We won’t spoil the Star Wars movie for you, other than to say the celluloid heroes of our youth have aged into digital icons akin to Lionel Barrymore, Gloria Swanson and Orson Welles. And, if you get that reference, you see the world through much-needed bifocals. Just like me. Until later ...



Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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