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TV Take: Tennessee’s upset of Gonzaga offered high-energy entertainment from start to finish

UPDATED: Sun., Dec. 9, 2018, 7:19 p.m.

If you could pull yourself away from Scott Hanson and the RedZone Channel on Sunday afternoon, you had a pretty special college basketball game to watch.

Even if it was played at a neutral site in front of a somewhat sparse but energetic crowd at Phoenix’s Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Gonzaga and Tennessee, two teams ranked in the top seven nationally, went back and forth for two hours with the seventh-ranked Volunteers upsetting No. 1 GU, pulling out a 76-73 victory.

What they saw …

ESPN had a hand in the Jerry Colangelo Classic, named after the former NBA executive who was installed in the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2004, and the network assigned Roxy Bernstein and analyst Sean Farnham to the broadcast.

And boy, did they have fun.

Especially when Admiral Schofield went off down the stretch. The 6-foot-6 wing scored 25 of his 30 points after halftime, and every big bucket Tennessee (7-1) needed in the final minutes. All while playing with four fouls.

“This just in, Gonzaga, you probably don’t want to leave him wide open,” Farnham said after Schofield hit his final 3-pointer, the one that supplied the final margin with 23 seconds left.

With the game tied, the Volunteers had Schofield, guarded by Rui Hachimura, set a ball screen, then pop to beyond the 3-point line. Hachimura hesitated and didn’t get back. Unlike Schofield’s earlier key 3-pointer, this one didn’t bank in. It was pure. And 9-1 Gonzaga’s reign atop the polls ended.

• It was a high-level contest – something Farnharm and Bernstein kept repeating – that pivoted early in the second half on a game-changing blocked shot from Brandon Clarke.

Corey Kispert had just made a free throw to give Gonzaga a three-point lead. The Vols attacked, with 6-foot-6 wing Yves Pons leaking out. He took it to the rim.

Clarke met him there and rejected the two-hand dunk attempt. The announcing crew just exploded:

“Look out!” “Oh my goodness!” “At the rim, Brandon Clarke!” “You kidding me, Roxy?”

The block keyed a Gonzaga run. At the next break, Farnham, the former UCLA player, stressed the play’s importance.

“That blocked shot has led and spurred the Gonzaga Bulldogs here in the second half,” he opined.

• The Zags’ beat-up bench may have hit them down the stretch of this one again, as they had a late stretch with little production, including the final 4 minutes, 16 seconds without a made field goal.

Each of the starters played at least 30 minutes despite Clarke and Hachimura, who each finished with 21 points, dealing with foul trouble.

Perkins played 37 minutes and orchestrated the offense with nine assists versus one turnover, but did not score, missing all six of his shots.

• The Volunteers dominated the early part of the game – they built a nine-point lead – by dominating the backboards.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few had to do something and his response was to insert Filip Petrusev and Jeremy Jones. After just a couple minutes on the floor, the duo had half of GU’s rebounds.

When asked by Farnham at halftime how the Zags had been able to rally, Few mentioned the offense and “we actually started to rebound the ball. They really pounded us on the glass early.”

Gonzaga finished with a 41-39 edge on the boards.

What we saw …

• The Zags struggled out of the gate against the energetic Volunteers. But they weren’t helped by a series of odd whistles. And those whistles continued throughout the game.

They were, in order, in the first four minutes:

– A phantom foul call on Zach Norvell 12 seconds in on a Tennessee lob;

– An obviously incorrect over-and-back call a minute later by the same official, D.J. Carstensen, that had to be overruled by his partners;

– An out-of-bounds call by Bo Boroski that had incorrectly given the ball to Gonzaga. He was correctly overruled by Rob Riley;

– Kispert penetrating and, while in midair, banged hard by a Volunteer. It was hard enough that Kispert almost fell when he landed. He was called for traveling.

Later, a ball sailed out of bounds because a player was accidentally pushed down by an official, Hachimura was called for a foul despite being almost a foot from the player, and Tennessee’s Grant Williams picked up his fourth foul on contact that was not whistled multiple times throughout the game.

• If anyone ever says basketball isn’t a game of inches, there was a late call in this one you can use to counter the argument. It’s just too bad the viewers didn’t get a better view of it.

It came with 8 minutes left. And, appropriately enough, involved Schofield.

Petrusev had rebounded his own missed 3-pointer and attacked the rim. On his way there, he collided with Schofield. Boroski emphatically called a charge.

It seemed, however, that Schofield’s right foot was on the restraining line, the half-moon area in which a secondary defender cannot earn an offensive foul.

Multiple views on the DVR indicated his foot was on the line, but the angle was poor and ESPN neglected to show more, despite a Gonzaga player pointing to the floor. The officiating crew did not avail themselves of a replay review and play continued.

Farnham did mention the play, however, as Tennessee came roaring back, noting that it supplied the Vols much-needed momentum.

If it had gone the other way? It would have been Schofield’s fourth foul. Instead he stayed in, committed another foul later – and hit the winner.

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