A GRIP ON SPORTS • Looking back – and ahead to tonight’s showdown in Moraga – it’s been a good week in college basketball. It must be mid-February. Read on.
• It began Tuesday night up in the north part of town, where Whitworth and No. 1 Whitman combined for almost 200 points and one of the most intense college games of the season, Inland Northwest edition. That the fourth-ranked Pirates lost, by one on two last-second free throws, seems almost immaterial (though not to those involved).
It signaled the beginning of a week full of rivalry games, even if ESPN didn’t come to town, throw millions at the participants and labeled the week thusly.
Last night there were a couple more rivalry games in Moscow, as Idaho hosted Eastern Washington in a doubleheader. The Vandals won both games, the women’s one in double digits, the men’s by two and established some dominance in their Big Sky rivalry this season.
(As an aside, we have a Peter Harriman story on the doubleheader aspect of the rivalry, which kind of makes me chuckle I’m old enough to have lived through the battles those involved in women’s basketball went through to earn the right to be treated as their own entity, not as preliminaries to the men’s games.
It was a battle that took years of fighting, a battle those who fought it probably wouldn’t appreciate the gains being surrendered so easily. Programs such as Gonzaga’s and Stanford’s and Oregon’s never would have ascended to where they are attendance-wise, if they had stayed as prelims to the men’s game. To think otherwise is ludicrous. However, it is understandable financially at some institutions for there to be doubleheaders, and the occasional ones like Idaho and EWU are playing seem justified as special events.)
Tonight there is the third game in the trifecta of local rivalry games, even if this one is played two states away.
The 12th-ranked Zags face off with the 11th-ranked Gaels in their second meeting of the season. The first one, in Spokane a couple weeks ago, resulted in a Saint Mary’s victory, one that catapulted the Gaels up the national polls. Tonight’s game will go a long way in deciding who is the WCC regular season champion and gets to wear white throughout the all-important postseason tournament in Las Vegas.
(Meanwhile, in Spokane, there will be 6,000 folks at the McCarthey Athletic Center to watch the women, undefeated in WCC play, host Saint Mary’s. That would be a sellout, in the good sense.)
One week, three rivalry nights, thousands of lucky Inland Northwest college basketball fans.
WSU: It’s a long weekend for the Cougars, who don’t play at Oregon until Sunday. The women played last night in Pullman and lost in overtime to No. 16 Oregon State. … The Register-Guard checked in with Washington State coach Ernie Kent, who spent many years in Eugene. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, we have some football news, with Arizona picking a grad transfer punter – from California. … Colorado looks for multi-sport athletes in its football recruiting. … The off-the-field news hasn’t been good for one Washington football player. … In basketball, Oregon State needed its win over WSU on Thursday. … The most important game today is in Tucson, where the Wildcats host USC. The Trojans have had trouble holding leads on the road this season. … UCLA is in Tempe, where Arizona State will try to sweep a Pac-12 weekend for the first time in Bobby Hurley’s tenure. … Washington has done enough to get on the NCAA bubble, but must do more to secure a spot.
Gonzaga: The marquee matchup is certainly center Jock Landale against the Gonzaga front line. Jim Meehan writes about it today as well as having a preview of the game. But the key for GU tonight will be how its guards play on both ends of the court. Not only did Josh Perkins and Silas Melson struggle offensively in the first meeting – a combined 4 of 17 from the floor – but the Gaels had little trouble driving into the paint late in the game, leading to easy buckets. If the Zags don’t shore that aspect up, it could be a long night. … Last year’s team earned an award from the Seattle Sports Commission. Jim has that story. … As we said earlier, the women host Saint Mary’s in the Kennel. Whitney Ogden has a preview.
EWU: The Eagles’ football signing class is pretty well thought of nationally. Jim Allen has more in this story.
Idaho: The men’s game last night came down to the final shot – and free throws. The Vandals made theirs. Peter has the game story as well as a game story from the women’s game. … We can also pass along a story concerning a former Idaho track athlete who is competing at the Winter Olympics.
• It’s a bit cold outside this morning and will be all day. But the action on the TV should be pretty warm. Enjoy it and enjoy your weekend. Until later …