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TV Take: AAU vet Francis Williams offers unique insight into Zags

Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss was the topic of much discussion during the broadcast of Gonzaga’s win over Portland. (Steve Dykes / Associated Press)

There are only so many subjects available to discuss with Gonzaga’s basketball team.

Through 20 games, all wins and most blowouts, those watching from the living room may have heard them all.

Can the Zags finish the season undefeated? Will they be a No. 1 seed? Is this Mark Few’s best team?

So of it was refreshing to hear a couple new items Monday night when the Bulldogs made up their weather-delayed contest at the University of Portland.

The third-ranked Zags won, of course, though the final score of 83-64 wasn’t indicative of depth of GU’s second-consecutive – in three days – blowout of the Pilots.


And the usual subjects were lined up and addressed.

But with Francis Williams doing the color commentary, a couple new ones were tossed around as well.

Williams, a fixture in Seattle-area hoops since his days at Garfield High, has a unique perspective.

Some of it comes from his days coaching the AAU summer circuit. Some of it comes from working as an NBA scout with the Charlotte Hornets. And he’s been a color commentator for Root off-and-on for a while. It was Root that broadcast the game though it was picked up by KHQ in Spokane.

So Williams has seen Nigel Williams-Goss for enough years to have some thoughts on his new home. And how the Washington transfer fits at GU.

“Is this system a better fit for him?” play-by-play man Tom Glasgow wondered midway through the second half and the Zags up by nearly 30.

“Absolutely,” Williams responded, “because the pressure defense and really getting up and down are the things Washington likes to do. We’re not talking about a guy who is a big-time athlete.

“But we are talking about a guy who is a cerebral player, that’s very skilled and understands how to play. This systems fits his skill set better.”

Williams went on to say back when Williams-Goss was thinking about leaving Washington, and Williams was scouting college players for the Hornets, many college coaches asked about Williams-Goss.

And most were surprised, the analyst said, he ended up at GU.

But they probably aren’t surprised to hear how well Gonzaga is defending this year.

Williams focused on one aspect of that defense to show how far Few’s teams have come the past few years.

“Holding opponents to 29.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc, No. 1 in the WCC, I think that’s really important,” he said in the pregame. “And (it) gives you kind of a snapshot of how much they have improved on the defensive end.

“That’s a big statement for a quality team.”

It’s too bad neither subject Williams discussed shined during the broadcast.

Williams-Goss, coming off a hip injury that caused him to miss the final minutes of Saturday’s game, was 2-of-9 shooting and had just four points. And the Pilots converted 40 percent of their 20 3-point attempts, well above Gonzaga’s season average.

    Also today: Take a look at Gonzaga’s 83-64 win over Portland by the numbers

Such on-point observations were accompanied by a couple of misses as well.

The broadcast team did an interview with injured Portland star Alec Wintering midway through the first half.

The interview took place, mind you, with Wintering sitting on the Portland bench. While the game was going on. A four-minute stretch went by with little or no description of the on-court action.

It also took the duo too long to notice when Killian Tillie went down with his second-half ankle sprain, as the Zags played four-on-five while Tillie writhed in pain on the Portland baseline.

In the first half, Williams seemed enamored of Portland’s physical play, praising a hard foul Philipp Hartwich’s delivered 22 feet from the basket on GU center Przemek Karnowski.

He lauded the foul later for “waking Portland up.” And admired the contact delivered by backup big Ray Barreno. The only problem? Both Portland bigs got into foul trouble. And Karnowski’s play inside, either scoring or passing, led to Gonzaga blowing the game open.

Which seemed inevitable after Gonzaga’s 18-0 run that spanned halftime. Which brings up another subject: Gonzaga’s best runs of the season.

No one has discussed that yet.

The Spokesman-Review