Senior Night doesn’t come for the second-ranked Gonzaga basketball team until Saturday. But, in a sense, it came for the KHQ broadcast crew Thursday night.
At least for this season.
The 92-64 rout of Pepperdine before the usual 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center marked the last KHQ broadcast until the fall. Although there were no flowers, pregame accolades or even usual guest BYU, those of us watching from home bid adieu to Greg Heister, Dan Dickau and Richard Fox.
What they saw …
• There are a few things we can count on when the local trio sits courtside.
Heister will have a gaffe or two. Dickau will talk about offense. Fox will have a couple of comments about Gonzaga’s defense.
And the trio will fake bicker two or three times.
The first one came 7 minutes into this game over a foul call. Another occurred less than 5 minutes later. And they had their final one as Heister said his thank yous while the clock ran down.
Through it all, though, they agreed on one thing: Josh Perkins has come a long way in his five years in Spokane.
• The trio opened the broadcast with a tribute to Perkins, the point guard who came in seven assists short of Matt Santangelo’s school record. It didn’t take him even a half to tie the mark, and Heister spent much of the time praising Perkins, not just as a player but as a student and a person.
The player aspect is easy to quantify even if it took him 11 minutes in the second half to get that all-important eighth assist – and 669 of his career.
It came as many of his assists this year did, on a lob to Brandon Clarke a 77-56 lead.
“It’s substantial, it’s significant,” Heister said of the record after a timeout. “This is a moment in history. Who knows when it will be broken again?”
Perkins finished with nine assists to go with his 10 points.
Maybe more important, Perkins has done something few players do. He’s still being referred to as underrated despite being the face of the program.
“He’s become a very undervalued piece, not only of this season’s team but in the program’s history as well,” Dickau said early in the game.
Perkins joined the trio for the postgame interview, after his teammates doused him with bottled water.
But like a good point guard, Perkins dished out the credit as well as he does the basketball, crediting his teammates and the other players on the assist list for getting to this point.
Then he looked forward to Saturday night.
“We have to put Senior Night aside,” he told Dickau, “and take care of BYU.”
• Speaking of school records, Rui Hachimura and Clarke each scored in double figures – again. It marks the 28th consecutive game – every one the Zags (26-2 overall and 13-0 in West Coast Conference play) have played this season.
That’s a school record that can only be equaled.
Hachimura led the Zags with 23 points while Clarke had 16 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.
What we saw …
• The game was close for much of the first half, until Pepperdine (12-16, 5-9) point guard Colbey Ross picked up his second foul midway through the first half.
He went to the bench and Gonzaga went on a run.
With the Zags threatening to run away with the game, Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romar brought his sophomore back. But he decided to protect him and play a 2-3 zone.
Which just allowed Zach Norvell Jr. to get going.
Norvell’s outside shooting keyed another run, one that finished the half with the Zags up 53-33. They outscored Pepperdine 11-2 to end the half. And Norvell? He finished with 21 points.
• It wasn’t the best outing for the officiating crew. At least Romar seemed to feel that way.
He saved his most expressive response to a Tom O’Neill technical foul call on Kessler Edwards for hanging on the rim. As Heister said more than once, Romar had a point.
The 6-8 Edwards had driven the left baseline and rose to slam one home, except Clarke met him at the rim with two hands and jammed the ball into the basket crotch. With Clarke underneath him, Edwards grabbed and hung on the rim, which is usually allowed if there is a worry about injury.
O’Neill must have felt there wasn’t, even though Edwards fell over Clarke and to the floor.
But it wasn’t the only time Romar – or Mark Few for that matter – had words with either O’Neill and his partners Mike Scyphers and Jeff Ketchu.
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