When ESPN broadcasts Gonzaga basketball games, there are a few things you can count on.
The game will not start on time. The production will include many promos for other ESPN games. There will be a label for the week or day. And there will be plenty of praise of the venue, the coach and the home team.
All those were checked off Saturday night during Gonzaga’s 102-68 Senior Night win over BYU at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
What they saw …
• When Eric Rothman, doing the play-by-play, and analyst Sean Farnham picked up the halftime stats, they saw something unusual next to Brandon Clarke’s name: 0 for 5 in the shooting category.
One of the nation’s best in that category, Clarke was obviously a target of the Cougars’ defense. Every time he touched the ball, the 6-foot-8 post found himself surrounded by BYU defenders.
Rothman asked Farnham how Clarke could get back on track in the second half.
“I think he’s just playing too fast,” Farnham said.
Maybe, but Clarke may have been forced into that by what BYU was doing. And he seemed a little off, having come off the bench on Senior Night instead of filling his usual starting role.
Clarke didn’t hit a shot until there were 8 minutes, 47 seconds to play. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting, keeping alive a streak of 29 consecutive games scoring in double figures.
• Being it was Senior Night, Gonzaga (27-2 overall, 14-0 in West Coast Conference play) started the four honorees and Rui Hachimura. One of the seniors was Geno Crandall, who also had the play of the game – at least according to Farnham. And, OK, probably everyone else.
Halfway through the second half, Crandall attacked Nick Emery in transition. A through-the-legs crossover put Emery into a blender and he disappeared, stumbling away with his hand on the floor. The lane open, Crandall took it to the hole, scored and was fouled.
“It’s never good when you fall 15 feet away from the person you’re defending and they score a layup,” Farnham said. “I’m just saying.”
• When ESPN broadcasts games from the Kennel, it’s akin to Forrest Gump’s stale box of chocolates.
You may get over the top. You may get an ex-NBA player with not a lot to say. Or you may get Farnham.
Understated doesn’t really describe Farnham’s style, unless you are comparing him to, say, Dick Vitale or Bill Walton. And he’s not as opinionated as Jay Bilas. He’s a little of all those guys, but in easy-to-listen-to measures.
And when he’s paired with a professional of Rothman’s level, the broadcast is basketball-centric. Weird.
And it’s not as if the duo doesn’t have an insight into Gonzaga basketball. They have done a handful of games this season and Farnham has a better understanding of what the second-ranked – soon to be top-ranked – Zags want to do than most in the national media.
What we saw …
• There may not have been a game this conference season in which Gonzaga was more locked in on defense than the 93-63 win in Provo, Utah, last month. That wasn’t the case in this one.
But give BYU and its game plan a bit of the credit.
The Cougars isolated two players, often reigning WCC player of the week T.J. Haws and leading scorer Yoeli Childs on one side of the court.
Childs would ball screen for Haws and the Zags, as is their wont, would switch. And the Cougars would attack. The isolation made it tough for the Bulldogs to help and either Haws or Childs, whoever had the best advantage, would attack.
The strategy worked – when Childs was on the court. But the 6-8 post got into foul trouble in the second half and spent much of it on the bench.
• With this being the final regular-season game in McCarthey this season, new WCC commissioner Gloria Nevarez was in attendance. She spent a segment talking with Rothman and Farnham about the state of the conference.
Then she got to witness BYU coach Dave Rose lose it on the sidelines.
Rose and the officiating crew of Greg Nixon, Eric Curry and most definitely Shawn Lehigh did not get along much of the night.
There were back-to-back offensive fouls called in the first half that seemed to begin the bickering. But it reached a new level midway through the second half when Curry called a technical on the BYU bench. He and Rose discussed it for a while and the game continued.
But with 6 minutes left, Rose was done discussing things – when 6-9 Gavin Baxter went up for a dunk and Corey Kispert, all of 6-6, met him at the rim and blocked the shot.
As the Zags, in the middle of a game-clinching 24-5 run, were going the other way, Rose stepped onto the court – way onto the court – and met Lehigh. He earned a technical.
“I understand the frustration for Dave Rose,” Farnham said, “(but) he is out on the floor during game action. You have to toss him out of the game.”
“How do you not toss him?” Rothman asked.
Rose wasn’t tossed.
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