There is probably no better way to watch a college basketball game than from inside a loud, raucous arena with about 6,000 of your best friends.
But watching from home, with the DVR doing its thing and ESPN2’s cameras catching just about everything, is pretty nice, too.
When it’s BYU trying to invade the Kennel and win for the fourth consecutive year, it’s even better. Add in a new set of eyes teamed with a veteran play-by-play voice, and it’s about as good as it gets.
Especially when the 14th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs hold off the Cougars 68-60 Saturday night to snap BYU’s Kennel winning streak.
What they saw …
Robbie Hummel may have been one of the most unlucky college basketball players. He was leading Purdue to a special season as a junior, only to tear his ACL. He came back for his senior year, only to tear his ACL.
He played professionally for five years before, last summer, decided it was time to hang up his sneakers and take up a microphone. It was a good choice.
In a game that featured some great individual plays on both sides, Hummel’s simple, easy analysis helped the viewers make sense of it all.
Working with Eric Rothman has to help as well, as his play-by-play is succinct enough to give his partner plenty of time to explain what just happened – although Rothman isn’t afraid to interject his opinion when needed.
A good example came with 30 seconds remaining, with the Zags leading 64-60. Zach Norvell reached in and stripped a driving T.J. Haws, with the ball squirting to Rui Hachimura. As Hachimura headed up the court, he obviously double-dribbled, though neither Verne Harris, Glen Mayberry nor Kevin Brill, the three officials, saw it.
“That’s a missed call,” he said as the replay played. “That’s a big missed call.”
Yes, it was. But so was another missed call about 5 minutes earlier, when Jahshire Hardnett scored on a putback as the Zags were on the cusp of putting the game away.
Problem was, Hardnett’s foot was on the baseline as he grabbed the ball, although Mayberry didn’t see it.
Neither did the ESPN cameras. But that was about all they missed.
As the first half ended, they followed Johnathan Williams III off the court and caught a short discussion the senior had with point guard Josh Perkins.
Williams seemed to be mouthing the words, “Get me the ball,” and he repeated himself more than once.
And why not? He had nine points at halftime, using his quickness to get to the rim and hitting 4 of 5 shots. Did his plea work? Not really, as the post only had four more shots and four more points.
What we saw …
The pace of the first half was intense and Hummel felt that aided the Zags.
He pointed out when you’re trying to win a tough game against a good opponent in a hostile venue, you must take good shots.
“You can’t fall into the trap of taking quick ones,” he said.
That’s what the Cougars (18-7 overall and 7-5 in West Coast Conference play) were doing.
The pace slowed after halftime and BYU chipped away at Gonzaga’s once 12-point lead, finally tying the game at 59 on a Haws jumper. It was the last of 10 consecutive BYU points the guard scored, and part of his game-high 22.
“He’s been so good on (the offensive) end of the floor,” Hummel said, before pointing out that hasn’t been the case for the sophomore this season, who shot poorly in BYU’s upset loss at Loyola Marymount on Thursday.
“He’s just shooting the basketball with such confidence.”
And the Cougars seemed to have confidence they can win in McCarthey, having done it last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.
We were reminded of that fact often by Rothman and Hummel, which is probably why someone invented the fast-forward button.
Or maybe it was for the graphic ESPN showed midway through the first half comparing the numbers of Oklahoma freshman Trae Young, the presumptive player of the year, with Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins and BYU’s Elijah Bryant.
It’s like comparing apples to avocados to apricots. They are all good, but comparing them just doesn’t make sense.
Happily, most everything else did for GU fans, from the Bulldogs (21-4, 11-1) getting the benefit of a missed call in the final minute and BYU giving them a scare all night long.
And we got to watch it all in high definition.
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