It’s just a guess, but more than likely the weather was better in the Bahamas, where Gonzaga spent its Thanksgiving weekend, than it was Wednesday night in Spokane.
But, and this is another guess, the Zags were probably glad to be back home, in front of the Kennel crowd and the local broadcast crew on KHQ and SWX.
OK, that last one is more important for those watching at home.
Especially in a game like the one against Texas Southern, a 101-62 rout, the third consecutive season ninth-ranked Gonzaga hosted and pummeled the Tigers.
And the local trio, Greg Heister, Dan Dickau and Richard Fox, were there to share it.
What they saw …
• Maybe they were just trying to mix things up, but Dickau and Fox seemed to switch their usual points of emphasis in this one. It was sort of a “Freaky Friday” type of thing.
It began in the pregame buildup, with Dickau, once an NBA guard, talking about the play of the bigs in the Bahamas, and Fox, the former post, opining on the guards.
But that wasn’t the end of it.
Fox spent a lot of the early part of the game singing Joel Ayayi’s praises.
“Joel Ayayi is literally the revelation of the season,” Fox said after the redshirt sophomore from France opened the scoring with a fastbreak layup. “He’s playing with so much confidence at the moment,” Fox added later. “What a turnaround from where he was last year. … His length, he’s 6-5, but those (long arms) go on forever.”
Ayayi played up to the praise in his first start of the season. He led the Zags with five assists while continuing to help out on the boards – he had a game-high nine rebounds – and scoring 16 points.
“He’s just so long,” Fox said before Dickau, the usual guard expert, added his thoughts.
“He’s just getting comfortable,” Dickau said. “People forget he was 16 when he moved over here from France.
“It’s just been impressive to see from last year to this.”
Ayayi was the broadcast’s player of the game and was supposed to be the subject of the postgame interview, but there was a problem with the microphone, forcing Heister and Fox to fill for a couple of minutes as they worked on the technical problem.
What we saw …
• With a tough three-game stretch coming up, it seemed as if Mark Few was trying to get through this one without stressing his banged-up players.
Admon Gilder didn’t start, bringing his gimpy knee off the bench after the first media break. Killian Tillie played the fewest minutes of any starter (16) by a large margin. And Ryan Woolridge, his right leg encased in a sleeve, played only 22 minutes.
Ten played – all the Zags had available – and seven of those scored in double figures.
The biggest evidence Gonzaga was dealing with its injuries by delving into the bench? Martynas Arlauskas, who is averaging about 7 minutes a game, entered with just under 11 minutes left.
• The tough stretch? That would be at No. 22 Washington on Sunday, at No. 12 Arizona on Dec. 14 and then No. 7 North Carolina visiting the Kennel on Dec. 18.
The key matchup …
• Tyrik Armstrong came into Wednesday’s game leading Texas Southern in scoring, averaging 14 points a game. That put a target on his back.
Although Woolridge usually began each possession guarding the Tigers’ left-handed point guard, Armstrong was a class project. Every time he shook free from Woolridge, there was help on the drive or at the rim.
Armstrong’s points came slowly – he only had three at the half and finished with 15, though most after the game was decided – but he did find open teammates. With Texas Southern shooting a paltry 39.7%, many of his decent passes were not rewarded with an assist.
Woolridge was not the target of the Tigers’ defense – even in transition when he should be – and he took advantage, handing out five assists and scoring 11 points, many of them at the rim.
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