To every University of Washington fan who has DirecTV and couldn’t watch the Huskies’ home game with Gonzaga on Sunday night, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott would like to say “you’re welcome.”
It saved them from having to watch an epic dismantling of their team, 97-70, courtesy of the visiting Bulldogs. And this “rivalry” was renewed … well, why was it renewed?
The games in Seattle will always be televised by the Pac-12 Networks, which has never been available on the nation’s largest satellite provider. The two sides haven’t been able to come to a carriage agreement.
And those of us who have the Networks, well, we had to watch the whistle-fest as well.
What they saw …
As could be expected, the Pac-12 Networks crew of Guy Haberman, Don MacLean and Lewis Johnson were well versed in Washington’s recent success, especially last week’s 74-65 upset of then No. 2 Kansas.
Heck, the broadcast’s opening montage consisted of nothing but the win that lifted Mike Hopkins’ team to 7-2 in his first season.
But even though Hopkins’ group plays the same zone he learned while coaching under Jim Boeheim – one of Mark Few’s best friends in the business – it doesn’t consist of the same athletes just yet.
Gonzaga took advantage of that early, when it attacked deep in the paint.
MacLean, the early-90’s UCLA forward who is still the Pac-12’s all-time leading scorer, recognized it right away.
“They are going to attack that zone inside,” MacLean said, explaining the way UW plays a 2-3, it allows it to extend and take away the 3-point shot. “Fortunately for Mark Few, he has players who can do that.”
Johnathan Williams (23 points on 9-of-14 shooting) and Killian Tillie (11 on 4-of-7) led the way but 12th-ranked GU was an equal opportunity scoring group, with 16 first-half points in the paint and 38 overall.
There would have been more in the first 20 minutes, but the Pac-12 officiating trio of Verne Harris, who Zag fans remember from the NCAA final, David Hall and Michael Irving, blew their whistles often, meaning five Zags and five Huskies had two or more fouls at intermission.
The whistle-fest slowed the game and, for some reason, MacLean thought it would favor one team: Washington.
That sort of flew in the face of the statistics. Gonzaga came in shooting 72 percent from the line, UW 71 percent. Though MacLean did mention those numbers he also alluded to a nebulous “style of play” as a way of explanation. Neither the numbers nor his prediction stood up, however, as the Zags converted 21-of-26 attempts while Washington was 11-of-19.
What we saw…
MacLean admitted a couple times he had never seen Gonzaga play live, but other than an early “Gonzawga,” it really didn’t show. Though calling them a mid-major early won’t endear him with Few.
But he made up for that faux pas by explaining himself in the second half. He wasn’t downgrading Gonzaga. He was actually dissing the West Coast Conference.
“The WCC is going to be mad at me after this,” he said late in the game, after basically saying the Zags don’t get tested as well in conference play as they would be tested in the Pac-12.
That’s true, especially at the lower ends of the conferences, but is a nearly 30-point blowout win over the Pac-12 team with the second-most wins this season the appropriate place to bring it up?
Especially since it came right after MacLean had wondered if “Washington’s spirit has been taken here.”
Sure it had. The Huskies were down by 28 at home in front of their first nonconference sellout crowd in nearly a decade. They may not have quit but they certainly weren’t performing at 100 percent efficiency.
The Zags sliced up UW’s zone, hitting more than half their shots and assisting on 20 of their 33 baskets. Their defense limited the Huskies’ options, took away the 3-pointer and limited second chances with a 40-27 rebound edge.
MacLean, seeing them live for the first time, trusted his eyes.
“Forget all the records, the numbers,” MacLean said at one point. “I’m watching a really good team that is well coached.”
As were you as well. Unless you have DirecTV.
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