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Grip on Sports: Gonzaga exposes Washington’s flaws and may have changed the look of the ‘rivalry’

Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski (24) knocks the ball away from Washington guard Carlos Johnson (23) but is called for the foul during the second half of a NCAA men's basketball game, Wed., Dec. 7, 2016, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski (24) knocks the ball away from Washington guard Carlos Johnson (23) but is called for the foul during the second half of a NCAA men's basketball game, Wed., Dec. 7, 2016, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • We’re back, and really looking forward to the next Gonzaga game. Yep, the Zips of Akron are coming to Spokane on Saturday. It has to be better than last night’s snoozefest, right? Read on.

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• If Lorenzo Romar loses his job at Washington after the season, there is little doubt UW athletic director Jennifer Cohen will point at Wednesday night’s game as part of the reason why.

You want contrast between two programs who haven’t played in a decade? You had it last night.

The Zags were efficient, engaged and focused throughout. The Huskies? They weren’t.

And they were roasted in the media, from Tacoma to Seattle to beyond. Especially in Seattle, as Times columnist Matt Calkins, making his first trip to the Kennel, eviscerated Romar and his team. It read like a call for a change.

Or an obituary.

No, the Huskies, and Romar, aren’t dead in the water yet. They just need to learn how to row together. And the coach? He needed to walk down the press table last night, grab Gonzaga volunteer assistant Ken Bone and drag him back to Seattle. Maybe the duo can recreate the magic they had a decade or so ago, when Bone was Romar’s top assistant – and his best instructor.

Another top 10 recruiting class won’t get it done this time. Washington has had lots of those, including this season, headlined by Markelle Fultz.

But Fultz, who tried to be a distributor in the first half last night then said forget this and was a one-man team at times in the second, isn’t enough. Individual players aren’t ever enough. Basketball is a team game. Five guys working together. If not, games like last night happen.

• Speaking of wins, Washington State picked one up last night, at the expense of its Palouse rival, Idaho.

And Ernie Kent picked up one too. His gesture at a Coaches vs. Cancer function to win an auction item came to fruition last night. He started the game on the Idaho bench. Yes, you can insert whatever joke you want here, but I won’t. Mainly because the cause was just. Fighting cancer.

Here is how Jacob Thorpe covered the occasion in his game story:

“Both coaches won before the game even began by coming together to raise awareness for Coaches vs. Cancer, and Kent donated $2,000 to sit by Verlin at the start of the game. The pair talked before the game and reflected on their fathers, both of whom died because of cancer.

‘I don’t think anybody’s seen that anywhere in the country, where an opposing coach has stood on one side of the field, sat on the other team’s bench, sat in another team’s dugout,’ Kent said. ‘The importance was coaches standing up for such a worthy cause and for all those people who have survived cancer, all those people who lost loved ones.’

Kent said the moment was the best of his coaching career.”

Basketball may be a team game, but it’s just a game. Cancer is … well, it’s just crappy, that’s all. It’s affected my family, it’s probably affected yours. 

Kent and Idaho coach Don Verlin, and Mark Few and Romar and whole heck of a lot of college basketball coaches, are doing what they can to help.

Win or lose, that needs to be applauded.

•••

WSU: Yes, the basketball game is the No. 1 story out of Pullman from last night, with Jacob covering it as only he can. But there is more. Mike Leach talked with the media and had a few things to say about football awards. And yes, he spoke like only he can. … The Cougars also lost an assistant coach who is homeward bound. Jacob has that story as well. … Jacob also has a story on Cody O’Connell, who is an Outland Trophy finalist but is not All-Pac-12, being named to the Sporting News’ All-American first team yesterday. … Stefanie Loh has a piece on the change in the coaching staff.

Elsewhere in Pac-12 football, Christian McCaffrey made it official yesterday. He’s headed to the NFL. … The Huskies will try to upgrade their non-conference football schedule in the future. … Struggles can either break you or make you stronger. Arizona will find out which. … Oregon State is looking for a new assistant coach. … As we reported yesterday morning, Oregon found its coach. Now will Willie Taggart find success in Eugene? It seems as if he’s won the press conference and it hasn’t even happened yet. … It’s hard to own up to mistakes. … On to basketball, where, besides Washington’s blowout, California also lost to Seton Hall in Hawaii. The positive? Colorado upset No. 13 Xavier in Boulder.

Gonzaga: Pretty hard to find more – or better – coverage of last night’s 98-71 rout over UW than you’ll find here in the S-R. Jim Meehan has the game story, of course. John Blanchette has his column. I chipped in with a look at the TV coverage. Michael Gulledge has a piece on Fultz. Whitney Ogden talked with Nigel Williams-Goss. Colin Mulvany and Dan Pelle have the photo report. And there are the keys to the win (just showing up might have been one). … If you are looking for stories from the other side of the state, we linked a trio of them above. … The Gonzaga women host Washington State tonight and Jim Allen has an advance. Whitney also has a feature on freshman point guard Jesse Loera from Moses Lake.

EWU: This probably deserves a little more, but Eastern coach Beau Baldwin isn’t going to Nevada. Multiple reports last night have Arizona State assistant coach Jay Norvell being tabbed for the position. Good for Nevada. Good for Eastern. And, in the long run, probably good for Baldwin. Someone with limitless pockets will hire him someday, but it won’t be Nevada. Jim Allen has more in this notebook. … Jim also has a story on the 6-2 Eagle basketball team and its leading scorer, Bogdan Bliznyuk. … Three Eastern football players were named All-Americans yesterday. See if you can name them. … Jim will also hold a live chat on SportsLink at noon. … Around the Big Sky, Weber State was unable to be the second Utah basketball team to go into the Marriott Center and defeat BYU this season. … North Dakota got past its rivals North Dakota State. … Cal Poly has lost one of its better inside players.

Idaho: Paul Petrino was named the Sun Belt Conference coach of the year yesterday.

Chiefs: Spokane is scuffling a bit and lost 6-5 last night to Victoria in the Arena. Josh Horton has the story.

Preps: There is a lot to wrestle with this morning, including Greg Lee’s wrestling preview stories from Idaho and Washington. (See what I did there?) Greg also has coverage of the first night of GSL wrestling. … There are boys and girls basketball roundups. … Greg has a preview of the GSL gymnastics season as well.

Seahawks: So is Earl Thomas really done? Pete Carroll moved to squash that thought yesterday and Richard Sherman also weighed in. … Sherman is more of a disciplinarian than I thought. … Doug Baldwin’s season is better than it looks. So is Tyler Lockett’s. … The Hawks signed another fullback yesterday. … How is the weather going to affect Sunday’s game in Green Bay?

Mariners: Seattle made a minor trade yesterday for a starting pitcher, but the M’s didn’t take part in any of the big winter meetings deals.

Sounders: The road to Toronto and Saturday’s MLS Cup match began in the cold in Seattle. A bunch of fans turned out.

•••

• So what’s on your agenda today? Have a Christmas tree yet? I’m not answering that question. I spent my day yesterday preparing for a huge predicted snow event. I grabbed the shovels out of their summer hideaway, dragged the blower from the backyard storage shed and made sure I had salt and gas – for the blower, not to melt the snow – ready. And now I find out it’s not going to snow today? Who do I complain to? Oh, right. You guys. Until later …

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