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TV take: Debate continues on whether WCC teams help Gonzaga improve

UPDATED: Sun., Jan. 22, 2017


Is it us or is it them?

The endless debate was discussed, in many forms, Saturday night on the Gonzaga television broadcast.

And in many different forms.

No, we’re not talking about Dan Dickau and Richard Fox’s seemingly endless disagreement concerning the relative brain power of guards vs. bigs, though their season-long discussion popped up again in the second half of the Bulldogs’ 73-52 win over visiting Portland.


That one was egged on by play-by-play man Greg Heister.

The one in question here was asked, in a sense, by the Zags themselves.

They are 19-0. They won another home game by 20 or more points, the 12th time that’s happened in 12 home dates. They held there opponent to less than 33 percent shooting. And yet it seemed like a struggle.

    Do we expect too much? Or are the Bulldogs so good that a 21-point victory can seem disappointing?

    Heister, the play-by-play man, pointed out Portland’s 21 offensive rebounds, calling it, at one point, “one of the stories of the game.”

    Dickau mentioned as the clock wound down “it wasn’t the prettiest of ballgames.”

    And Fox pointed out, late in the first half, the 50/50 plays, the ones that go to the team with the most want-to, were “going to Portland right now.”

    Heck, even assistant coach Donny Daniels, on his way to the halftime locker room, was critical of the Zags’ first-half offensive approach.

    “Way too many 3s,” he said, shaking his head a bit. “Obviously, they are going under the ball screens so they are giving them to us. But we have to have more discipline. … We have to move the ball better.”

    At that point, Gonzaga led 34-23.

    Was everyone, including the fans grumbling on social media, being too tough? Not really. As Fox and Dickau pointed out, the outside shots were not falling for the Zags even as Portland, with only two wins in conference play, was daring them to shoot from long range.

    In fact, the long-range shots never fell – GU finished 7 of 22 beyond the arc – but the inside game began to assert itself. And the defense never left.

    Part of that is Gonzaga is just really good on that end, as Fox pointed out more than once. The Pilots hit less than a third of their shots, only a quarter of their 3-pointers and turned it over 18 times.

    But there was another contributing factor: Portland’s loss of do-everything guard Alec Wintering, the senior who has caused GU fits in the past.

    “He’s been unbelievably good the last three years,” Dickau said in the pregame show, only an hour or so after it was learned Wintering had a torn ACL, suffered Thursday night. “But, in his senior year, he has been invaluable to (Portland).”

    Wintering, a 6-foot guard, was averaging 19.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He was, as Dickau put it, “the focal point on the defensive end (and) everything offensively runs through him.”

    Portland had to adjust. It took a while. Gonzaga didn’t wait. It opened an 11-point lead before the remote even got warm. That lead was the difference for two-thirds of the game.

      Also today: Three keys from GU’s 73-52 win over Portland

    Even though the Zags finally pulled away, Nigel Williams-Goss wasn’t around to see it.

    The transfer guard, who led them is scoring with 15 points, was knocked to the floor on a drive with 4 minutes, 40 seconds left and suffered what looked to be a back or hip injury. He limped to the locker room.

    As Heister had said just minutes before, “Portland is playing really physical. When you get 8 feet in, it’s hard to score.”

    The Zags found a way to pull away, though.

    It got to the point, after the trio had exhausted the big-man/little-man intelligence conundrum, Fox wanted an answer to a simple question.

    How does the WCC get Gonzaga better?

    No one really answered, probably because the correct answer is some teams in the conference don’t. But Dickau did put forth an interesting proposition.

    He wished there was a way teams could hold open one date to fill out later in a season. He mentioned third-ranked UCLA, which lost at home Saturday to Arizona, a team Gonzaga handled.

    No one knew how good the Bruins were going to be. So wouldn’t it be nice if Gonzaga and UCLA could decide in January to play a February game?

    Yes, but it will never happen.

    Sort of like we will never get a definitive answer to the most important question.

    No, we’re still not talking about who is smarter, guards or bigs. Everyone knows that answer.

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