Gonzaga has won each of its 15 West Coast Conference games this season by an average of more than 23 points.
So when a game is a bit close, as Thursday night’s was for a half, then it becomes news.
And something worth discussing.
Which is exactly what Greg Heister, Dan Dickau and Richard Fox did.
The announcing crew for the local GU broadcasts, in their last game of the season together, were quick to spot an unusual, for this season, trend.
Dickau mentioned it early, saying, “Right now, Gonzaga is allowing USF to stay in it.” Heister called it “a spirited start for San Francisco.” And, Fox, the former Zags big man, urged GU to “get the ball inside.”
But nothing seemed to get the Zags into overdrive, as they have done so many times this season.
As Fox said with 2 minutes until halftime, “Here is where you usually see the Zags pull away.”
Pulling away wasn’t in the cards this time, though, trailing by as many as five early on, Gonzaga did take a 42-35 lead into the locker room.
Despite turning the ball over seven times in the opening half, despite having three starters combine to hit just 1 of 10 shots, the Bulldogs led by seven.
“They didn’t play all that well,” Fox said, “and they have 42 points on the board.”
It was the type of letup not seen all that often in No. 1-ranked Gonzaga’s first 26 games.
“Game in, game out, there just haven’t been any lulls,” Heister said as the Zags pulled away in the second half en route to a more-typical 96-61 win, forgetting the first-half struggles.
Back then, when it was still a tight game, Dickau had addressed the group’s lack of stretches like this throughout the season.
“It speaks the maturity of this team,” he said, mentioning just about everyone in the eight-man rotation. “They are battle tested.”
And probably a bit battle weary after 27 games, all wins. No matter. They came out of halftime, turned up the pressure and blew the Dons out.
“You have to imagine what was said in that locker room,” Dickau wondered less than 5 minutes into the second half and Gonzaga leading by 16, “because Gonzaga has come out with a much clearer sense of purpose in the second half.”
The No. 1-ranked Zags did it all with freshman Killian Tillie watching from the bench, his right hand and wrist in a soft cast. Turns out he broke a bone late in practice yesterday and will be out a while.
Heister wondered before the game started how that would affect the rotation, and Dickau pegged the right answer.
“I’m not sure how much it is going to change,” he said.
Drawing on past experience, Mark Few shortened the rotation to seven as he did when Tillie was out with an ankle problem earlier.
Though his absence was felt by one fan.
With some 13 minutes remaining, Heister shared a story that had to tug at some heartstrings. Seems Tillie’s mother, Caroline, had arrived in Spokane on Wednesday from France. She had made the trip to watch her son’s final four games of the season.
Ten minutes after she stepped into the gym, Heister related, Killian broke his hand.
It’s about the only thing that has gone wrong for GU this season.
Though there are three regular-season games left, and an unknown of postseason contests, Thursday’s was the last the trio of Heister, Dickau and Fox would broadcast.
As the last minute wound down, Heister took the time to thank the behind-the-scenes crew, a sentiment Dickau and Fox echoed.
Then Fox summed it up in his typical self-deprecating manner.
“To the crew, everybody behind the scenes, the fact they have to make up for what we’re doing,” Fox said, “it’s really remarkable it’s as good a telecast as it is, because we do everything we can to try to sabotage it.
“Well done, everybody.”
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