It may be hard to quantify, but Gonzaga’s exhibition game against Central Washington at the McCarthey Athletic Center was probably the most anticipated in the past few years.
Part of it is the high expectations greeting this Zags team, ranked third nationally heading into the season. And part of it is the opportunity to see for the first time in GU uniforms transfers Brandon Clarke and Geno Crandall, as well as freshman Filip Petrusev.
But probably the most anticipated aspect of the game was seeing how Gonzaga would fare without Killian Tillie, the 6-foot-10 sharpshooter who will miss six to eight weeks with a stress fracture in his ankle.
That and more was on display in the broadcast on KHQ during the Bulldogs’ easy 108-69 win.
What they saw …
There was the familiar – Greg Heister on the play-by-play and analysts Dan Dickau and Richard Fox return as the local announcing team – and the new – cleaner, easier-to-read graphics – on the SWX/KHQ broadcast.
But there was a lot to cover, especially the roster questions.
Tillie’s injury came up at the top of the show, as well as more than a few times through the course of the easy win.
Fox summarized what the injury meant when he explained midway through the first half that coach Mark Few was “tinkering with his lineup, his rotations, trying to figure out who meshes best, particularly without Tillie.
“You’re anticipating having Tillie to start the year, now you don’t. You might have to approach the start of the season differently than how you wanted to.”
Dickau and Fox mentioned another lineup possibility they both wanted to see, Josh Perkins and Crandall playing together. It happened off and on throughout the game.
“The best Gonzaga teams have always had two great decision-makers, ball-handlers,” on the court at the same time, according to Dickau.
Crandall displayed his quickness attacking with the ball and his ability to allow Perkins, a 39-percent 3-point shooter in his career, to run a lane.
However, the Zags did have some breakdowns, especially on defense.
“I have to think tomorrow the conversation will be focused on the defensive side of the floor,” Fox said in the second half, focusing on Gonzaga’s communication lapses.
What we saw …
No one was in midseason form, but there were a few midseason-like plays from the players – a couple of Rui Hachimura’s buckets, Crandall’s quick attacks and Clarke’s work on the glass – and some midseason-like stretches of multiple whistles from the officiating crew.
“Don’t forget, guys, this is not only our first broadcast of the year, the players’ (first game), but it’s the official’s too,” Dickau said halfway through an interminable second half. “You got to work the kinks out.”
With 3 minutes and 14 seconds remaining in the first half, and Gonzaga already in a commanding lead, Perkins drove the right side of the lane. He was knocked to the floor – a foul was called – and, as he was getting up, must have said something, though it didn’t look on the replay as if it was directed toward referee Greg Nixon.
No matter. Nixon quickly assessed Perkins a technical.
“As a senior,” Dickau said during the next dead-ball situation, “you should have learned by now … how to approach an official.”
Or which officials are unapproachable – or hold on to past slights. That happened early in the game when Nixon called Perkins for an offensive foul, though replays showed the Wildcats’ player slid over well after Perkins made a pass. And Perkins was obviously not happy about it.
Two people who were probably happy, and impatient for next season’s exhibition, were two local recruits who have committed to Gonzaga.
Anton Watson from Gonzaga Prep and Kittitas’ Brock Ravet were both in attendance, with Fox and Dickau spent some time singing the praises of Watson, who was showed on camera for a while.
No matter what the final was, the Zags worked out some rough edges before the games begin to count starting Tuesday.
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