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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

TV Take: Fans might not have seen tough test coming, but play-by-play crew called it

Dec. 16, 2017 Updated Sat., Dec. 16, 2017 at 10:05 p.m.

It’s pretty interesting when one can be prophetic. And it is even more so when all three people on the Gonzaga television broadcast can do it.

During the Zags’ 89-83 overtime win Saturday night over visiting North Dakota, KHQ’s play-by-play voice, Sam Adams, had the audacity to say, “the Bulldogs find themselves on upset alert” as the broadcast was going to commercial.

It was 14-13 UND at the time. There were 11 minutes, 15 seconds to play – in the opening half.

But, in something not many probably saw coming, Adams was channeling his inner Nostradamus.

The Zags actually were on upset alert, and may have succumbed to that except for something Richard Fox mentioned as the first half wound down.

“The disparity in size,” the analyst pointed out, “over the course of the game, it just starts to wear you down.”

Gonzaga’s advantage in size, as well as experience, talent and depth, did wear the Fighting Hawks down, though it didn’t happen until there were just a few minutes left in the game.

And the Bulldogs did it in a way Dan Dickau, the third member of the crew, mentioned with almost seven minutes remaining until halftime.

“The best way to create easy offense,” the former GU guard said, “(is to) crawl into people defensively and force turnovers.”

It was, for 12th-ranked Gonzaga this night, the winning formula. But it didn’t show until the final five minutes of regulation.

Up until that point, the Zags, coming off finals and a trouncing of Washington in Seattle, were putting in, as Fox described it, “a lethargic effort.” He was talking about the 11-turnover offense at halftime, but the description fit both ends for much of the game.

It continued for much of the second half.

Then came a 13-0 run, keyed by a three-quarter-court trap.

North Dakota led 64-55 with 4:49 left. Over the next 3-plus minutes the Fighting Hawks (4-7) had just two turnovers but their five shots all seemed rushed, something that hadn’t been happening.

As Fox noted, the Gonzaga pressure, keyed by 6-foot-7 Jeremy Jones up top, wasn’t just forcing turnovers, it was “more importantly, speeding them up.”

That’s the Zags’ game. They play it well. And they took advantage to tie on a Josh Perkins’ 3-pointer – Adams was as emphatic on the call as he’s probably ever been – and then build a late four-point edge.

But UND, last year’s Big Sky champions, didn’t fold, rallied and tied it in the closing seconds on Geno Crandall’s contested 3-pointer, part of his game-high 28 points.

Before the final shot, Gonzaga coach Mark Few took a time out. There were 14 seconds left, his team had a three-point lead, and Johnathan Williams had one more free throw.

Dickau and Fox, prompted by Adams, wondered if the Zags would foul – forcing North Dakota to the line for a one-and-one, or play it out, risking a tying 3-pointer.

Dickau mentioned Few has done both before, and neither would make a prediction. The Zags played it out, Crandall hit a long 3-pointer and we had free basketball. And commercial-free basketball. There wasn’t one in the final few minutes of regulation, through the break and during the extra five minutes. It got to the point where you began to wonder if the Northern Quest couple was still bickering over smoking.

Only one team smoked in overtime and that was Gonzaga (9-2), especially in the first few minutes when the Bulldogs opened an 11-point lead.

That’s when Fox’s point about wearing down was brought up again. By him, sure, but when you’ve predicted the future, why not remind everyone?

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