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Grip on Sports: You didn’t have to look too hard to find some college basketball to celebrate on Saturday

Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Brandon Clarke (15) high fives fans after defeating BYU during the second half of a college basketball game on Saturday, February 23, 2019, at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga won the game 102-68. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Brandon Clarke (15) high fives fans after defeating BYU during the second half of a college basketball game on Saturday, February 23, 2019, at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga won the game 102-68. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • If you aren’t watching college basketball on your Saturdays this time of year, you aren’t doing Saturday right. That’s all I have to say about that. Read on.


• We did. And we will now share what we learned. Uh, Gonzaga is still really good. Washington State may be better, but there is still a long way to go. And it’s too bad ESPN doesn’t show highlights of all the top-ranked teams’ games.

• The Zags celebrated Senior Night – we left the real commentary on that to John Blanchette and he got to the heart of the matter: How many non-seniors won’t be back either – in the Kennel last night and they did it with a win over BYU.

That hasn’t always been the case recently. Even in the magical season of way back in 2017, when the Bulldogs sniffed a national title, they didn’t do that.

Heck, rarely have they won their final home game with such dominance. It wasn’t just a win, it was a rout. And the second half was full of fireworks, some of which came from the Cougars’ bench.

All in all, it was entertaining as heck.

• The Cougar game wasn’t, if you are a Cougar fan. It’s not a lot of fun watching the other team, in this case Utah, continually connect of 3-point shots. The Utes hit 16 of them, nearly half of their attempts.

That’s too many to overcome, unless Robert Franks can match that total himself. He couldn’t and the Cougars fell to 4-10 in conference play.

By the way, in two weeks it will be Franks’ Senior Night. It might be nice if more than a couple thousand folks showed up to bid adieu to a player who improved more in Pullman than just about anyone.

• The two Big Sky teams in the area were on the road yesterday, so they both lo … wait, I’m being told Eastern won. A road game. Well, I never. Just kidding, of course, but the Eagles have struggled mightily on the road this season while being almost unbeatable at home.

Maybe all the snow in Flagstaff made them feel at home. Whatever. They earned a win.

• That’s something Whitworth couldn’t do last night in the Northwest Conference championship game at Whitman.

Last year the Pirates upset the Blues and earned the conference’s automatic berth in the NCAA Division III tourney. (And then were rewarded by being sent to Walla Walla for the first couple rounds.)

It’s probable Whitworth’s streak of 12 consecutive NCAA appearances will end Monday when the field is announced. That’s despite a 21-6 record, with three of those losses tight ones to the nation’s No. 2-ranked team.

• Speaking of rankings, you could watch the No. 1 team in the nation, Duke, play Syracuse if you wanted yesterday afternoon. The No. 2 team, Gonzaga, was also on ESPN. The fourth-ranked team, Kentucky, played on CBS. But the nation’s third-ranked team? It was nowhere to be found.

Nope, you couldn’t watch Virginia, even though the Cavaliers were playing Louisville, ranked 18th. Not only that, in all the time I was watching ESPN or one of its networks yesterday, I never saw a single highlight. That’s despite the fact Virginia trailed by 10 at halftime and rallied to win on the Cardinals home court.

How? By holding Louisville to 15 points in the second half. Yep, 15. The Cardinals had two stretches of more than 5 minutes in the second half in which they did not score. That’s impressive, but hard to show in a highlight format, right? Unless you have a bunch of time, showing missed shot after missed shot isn’t easy – or all that exciting.

• One last Saturday thought. There were a couple times I looked out into the front yard yesterday and wished I was 12 years old again. The snow fort possibilities are endless right now. And the supply of ammunition? Off the charts.


Gonzaga: Senior Night. The obligatory picture of a longtime GU player walking through the Kennel Club to the floor. The parental hug. The highlights. The postgame address. It was sort of sad ESPN broadcast the game last night because there was nothing but a snippet or two of those activities. If KHQ or SWX had been in the house, viewers at home would have seen more, which would have certainly made the final 10 minutes of the game more sentimental. As we said above, John addressed the night in his column and some more of it seeped into Jim Meehan’s game analysis. … Jim also has the keys to the win and the news another imposing high school player committed to Gonzaga yesterday. … The folks in the office put together the recap with highlights. … Tyler Tjomsland has the photo gallery. … We watched and wrote our TV Take. … The women played on the road yesterday and won handily. … The baseball team split a couple of decisions. … The folks in Utah had a lot to say about the game’s outcome and the way it was adjudicated. … Around the WCC, Saint Mary’s ruined San Diego’s Senior Night. … Loyola Marymount picked up a win at Pacific.

WSU: Theo Lawson covered the Cougars’ 92-79 loss to Utah with this game story and video of postgame comments from Ernie Kent and a couple players. … There is also more coverage from the Salt Lake City papers. … Around the Pac-12, the fascination with Mike Leach continues. … If you want to know why Washington has already won a share of the conference regular-season crown, just check out the Huskies’ defense. Colorado experienced it first-hand yesterday. … Oregon jumped all over UCLA early yesterday and then just stopped playing. The Bruins rallied for a home win. … Oregon State is in second place after holding off a USC rally on the Trojans’ Senior Night. … Arizona would like to put together a winning streak. … Arizona State is ready for its last home game. … In football news, ASU’s spring practice time is running short.

EWU: The Eagles had a hard time getting to Northern Arizona but not so much with the Lumberjacks. … The women, playing in Cheney, also defeated NAU. … Around the Big Sky, Montana won its 10th consecutive game and this one was big. It came against Montana State.

Idaho: Another conference game, another conference loss for the Vandals. This one was at Southern Utah.

Whitworth: The Pirates led by 10 at halftime but couldn’t hold on to the game – or the automatic berth.

Chiefs: Tri-City was in town last night, which means Spokane’s 2-1 victory means that much more. Kevin Dudley was in the Arena and has this game story.

Preps: Not only were there a lot of college basketball games available to watch yesterday, there were also many, many high school regional games. We start with Dave Nichols’ coverage of the 4A regionals, with stories on Gonzaga Prep’s boys winning, Lewis and Clark’s girls doing the same as well as Central Valley picking up a victory. … There are also roundups from girls and boys basketball action in Washington. … We can also pass along State wrestling results from Idaho and State gymnastics and bowling from Washington.

Mariners: Felix Hernandez deserves a little luck. He didn’t get any yesterday. … What is the plan for the M’s? … There was a promotion in the front office.


• One of my favorite memories from younger days were Sunday mornings in the first few years of marriage. It always consisted of a long walk with the dog (that would be Stanley, our first), breakfast and then an hour or so of reading the Sunday newspapers. We got two huge ones, the Los Angeles Times and the newspaper I helped produce, the Orange County Register. I would organize everything and sit in the living room reading and reading and reading. I miss it. Until later …

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