The word of the day during KHQ’s broadcast of Gonzaga’s easy 101-52 win over visiting Santa Clara on Saturday night?
It might have been “frustration” or some variation of it.
Not with the 20th-ranked Zags’ record, or with their opening West Coast Conference weekend, which ended with two wins by more than 30 points at the McCarthey Athletic Center. And certainly not with their latest performance.
But with the way they have been playing.
“There’s this feeling around Zagville that the Zags are struggling,” play-by-play man Greg Heister said in the opening segment. “Ranked in the top 20, they are 11-3, arguably the best team in the West Coast Conference. Seems pretty good to me.”
What they saw …
Despite that disclaimer, Heister and his two analysts, Dan Dickau and Richard Fox, spent much of the game, rightfully, explaining the reasons behind the frustrations.
According to Heister, the coaching staff wanted to see a more consistent effort, two halves of the Bulldogs’ best basketball. It hasn’t happened all that often in their 12-3 season.
It did this night. Especially early on, as GU took a 15-0 lead, expanded the lead to 52-25 at the half and coasted in the second, but not too much.
“That’s about as good an offensive possession as we’ve seen in a few weeks,” Fox said in the first 3 minutes, after the Zags’ Johnathan Williams had converted one of GU’s 28 assists into one of its 36 made baskets.
And the offensive show continued from there.
But that’s not to say the undercurrents of frustration didn’t show up even in a 49-point victory.
The Zags had just four turnovers in the first half against Santa Clara’s matchup zone, but when assistant coach Brian Michaelson donned the headset for the halftime interview, he used the word of the day.
“We took great care of the ball,” he said, praising the offense until he expressed the staff’s annoyance. “The frustrating thing, the three turnovers were really silly ones. Other than that, we were great.”
Being one of the four first-half turnovers was a questionable offensive foul call on Williams, Michaelson had to be referring to point guard Josh Perkins’ two bad passes and another by Silas Melson.
Perkins, who finished with eight assists, made four passes in the first half that elicited responses from the broadcast crew. Two were exceptional ones – a pass to Williams for a layup and lob to Rui Hachimura for a dunk. Both were greeted with well-deserved praise.
But Perkins also had a bad no-look pass out of bounds and another look-away pass that became a turnover.
“There’s clearly been some frustration with the lack of consistency,” Fox said early in the first half and then, after the first Perkins’ turnover, followed up with “that’s a grand-slam pass you’re trying to make. Just make the simple play.”
Dickau echoed the sentiment just before halftime when Perkins missed Hachimura, saying “it comes down to making the simple play.”
What we saw …
Speaking of frustration, we didn’t see the final few minutes of the game, as our Comcast connection with KHQ disappeared. The last 6 minutes or so was filled with a gray screen and the NBC logo.
But by then this one was decided, mainly because Santa Clara, 4-10, just isn’t good enough to stay with the battle-tested Bulldogs.
The Broncos tried to zone, a strategy coach Herb Sendek used most of the nine years he was at Arizona State, but Gonzaga found the open seams almost every possession.
It looked almost as if Santa Clara was inexperienced trying to execute the defense. Turns out, the Broncos were.
Dickau explained midway through the first half that Sendek’s team opened the season playing man-to-man, but the last four-to-five games had been using the zone.
That’s the type of nugget we’ve come to expect from the local trio.
Dickau and Fox are also good at explaining the why something happens, not just the what. In this one, Santa Clara turned the ball over a season-high 21 times which turned into 33 Gonzaga points.
Fox came up with a reason.
“The height and length of Gonzaga,” he said, “has really caused Santa Clara a lot of problems.”
True. But Fox missed a chance to continue a theme. All he had to do was substitute the phrase “frustrated Santa Clara” and the circle would have been complete. As was the rout.
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