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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

TV Take: This season’s dominant, versatile Zags elevate Gonzaga basketball to a ‘new level’

Vince Grippi

It’s a long way to go back into the memory banks, but maybe, just maybe, UCLA fans of the late 1960s and early 1970s know this feeling.

The feeling that comes with utter domination.

There is no other word to use, at least following Gonzaga’s 79-43 dismantling of USD.

As analyst Richard Fox said just before the KHQ broadcast ended, Gonzaga hasn’t really been challenged in West Coast Conference play. Not yet.

Not by Saint Mary’s. Not by USF. And certainly not by the University of San Diego on Thursday night in the Kennel.

It was, simply, a mismatch.


But it was other things as well. It was a .500 team playing on the road against the nation’s No. 3 team – only a Saturday night win in Malibu away from being No. 1. It was Nigel Williams-Goss having another of those games, with 25 points on 11-of-15-shooting. It was the five USD starters combining to go 11 of 42 from the floor.

And it was at times in the second half, as the Toreros fired up numerous air balls and Gonzaga scored at will, hard to watch.

It was a re-run of about seven other WCC games this season. And re-runs don’t hold a lot of drama. Not that you would have known by folks sitting behind the broadcast crew.

Or maybe it was just one extremely impressed person.

“There is one student in the Kennel,” analyst Dan Dickau said, laughing, early in the second half. “I don’t know if you, the audience on TV, can hear it, but we can hear her in our headphones, that’s for sure.”

Play-by-play man Greg Heister chuckled and answered for all of us.

“We’re being told they can hear her.”

Yes, we could. Loud, though, thankfully as far as the FCC is concerned, not clear.

But why not celebrate? As Fox said in the extended postgame show – the game was over, literally, with more than 10 minutes before the broadcast was scheduled to end and, figuratively, about an hour before that – it should be loud.

This is unprecedented for Zag fans, even with all the success Gonzaga has posted the past two decades. Yes, this season’s repeated routs have a mind-numbing quality to them, but they have all featured the same crowd-pleasing ending.

Even Johnathan Williams, the junior transfer from Missouri, isn’t quite sure how to comprehend Gonzaga’s 21-0 start to the season.

    Also today: Three keys to Gonzaga’s 21st victory of the season

“It’s a crazy experience,” he told Fox in the postgame show.

So how does one explain it? How do the Zags lose two of the best players in the nation, including a first-round draft choice, and get better on both ends?

It was a subject that received a lot of discussion from the local broadcasting trio, especially after Gonzaga put together a 32-2 run spanning halftime that not only put the game away but was also reminiscent of the Bill Walton-led UCLA teams.

Dickau and Fox touched on a variety of subjects, ranging from guard play to the depth of rim protectors, but in the end their best explanation might be summed up in one word: versatility.

In lots of ways.

“We make such a big deal about Gonzaga’s versatility on the offensive end,” Dickau said when the Zags led 60-28, “it’s their defensive versatility that really stands out. (They are) top five in the country (in) defensive field goal percentage.”

That comment followed a second-half stretch in which USD hit one shot from the floor in more than 10 minutes, so it’s an understandable reaction.

And it’s also true.

The bar-room argument whether this is Mark Few’s best team may not be answered until March, but the numbers indicate this is his best defensive group.

    Also today: Take a look at Gonzaga’s dominating 79-43 win over San Diego by the numbers

But don’t forget, the balanced Gonzaga offense is pretty decent too.

Both subjects were covered extensively during the broadcast, leading to the inevitable how-good-are-they questions and their corollary, the place-in-history queries.

“This program is at a new level right now,” Fox said as the blowout wound down and Heister mentioned some of the best teams in Gonzaga’s recent past.

Fox touched on a few reasons why, but, finally, came down to the theme of the night.

“Their versatility,” he said, “differentiates them from most of those teams.”

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