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TV Take: When it comes to watching Gonzaga, some nights there’s no place like home

Vince Grippi

There is a lot to be said for watching Gonzaga’s undefeated season from the comfort of your living room.

The hot dogs are cheaper, for one thing. The seats are more comfortable. Replays are always available.

And when something odd happens, you may just find out what’s going on.

Such was the case Saturday night in the Kennel – and at home.

This year’s top dog, Nigel Williams-Goss, suited up, but didn’t warm up or play in the Zags’ 90-55 win over overmatched Santa Clara, the top-ranked Zags’ 24th consecutive win.

If you were sitting in the McCarthey Athletic Center, you probably had no idea why Williams-Goss was a spectator. (Um, Twitter – Eds.) At home, though, the ESPN2 announcing crew of Eric Rothman and Malcolm Huckaby let you know.

And when your buddies wondered what was going on, they knew whom to text. The guy sitting in his easy chair.

You had the answer. Williams-Goss turned his ankle during his massive performance at BYU and it was bothering him.

Rothman and Huckaby relayed the information right off the top of the broadcast, mentioning they had seen him limping around during GU’s Saturday shoot-around.

And then they spent a few minutes discussing what it might mean to the Zags, who were looking to improve their WCC record to 12-0.

“One of the key elements of not having Nigel Williams-Goss on the floor is his defense,” said Huckaby, a former guard with Boston College who spent most of his professional career overseas. “He’s an excellent on-ball defender, in particular in pick-and-roll situations.”

As the Zags struggled early – Santa Clara actually led at one point, snapping a more than 264-minute streak of GU leading – Huckaby continued to hammer on the Williams-Goss’ absence and the Zags’ defense, though not necessarily in that order – or together.

The Zags’ stellar defensive stats came up a handful of times.

And Huckaby, who opened the broadcast by saying “it starts on the defensive end for Gonzaga,” never went more than about 5 minutes of game time without talking about that end.

It was his favorite subject. And his favorite phrase? “That’s too easy” was used three times, usually uttered after a Gonzaga basket.

However, he didn’t use it to describe the Bulldogs’ schedule, as some analysts have.

Huckaby praised the Zags’ nonconference wins, from Florida to Iowa State, from Arizona to San Diego State.

“Some of those non-conference wins are looking better today,” Rothman added, mentioning Florida’s easy win over Kentucky and Iowa State’s upset of Kansas in Lawrence.

The Gonzaga crowd came in for praise as well, though the two refrained from mentioning any Spokane hotels. They left that up to Sean Farnham in the studio, who didn’t miss a chance for a Davenport shout-out. Even Andy Katz chimed in, singing the praises of the hotel’s beds.

But the biggest praise was reserved, rightfully, for the No. 1 team in the nation.

“The ways they can beat you,” Huckaby answered when Rothman asked him what impressed him the most about GU. “They can beat you with their defense. They can go down low and play through their two bigs. Obviously, they’re an excellent 3-point shooting team and then they have a star and a closer in Nigel Williams-Goss, a guy who can put up 30 on you on any given night.”

Except this one.

And those watching at home knew why. They also knew, by the time it was over, that Huckaby had seen things in Spokane he had never seen before.

The first was Killian Tillie blocking a shot with his back turned to the shooter. It was Rothman who first noticed the play, but on the replay Huckaby was flabbergasted.

“We’re going to have to check to and see if that’s ever been done before,” he said, though it’s probably not a stat they keep at Elias Sports Bureau.

The other was a late technical on Santa Clara for having a player in the scorebook with the wrong number.

Huckaby marveled at the call, talked with the officials and then shared the explanation.

And those watching at home pulled out their phones and shared it with the unknowing in the Kennel.

Follow along with the Zags

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