Sometimes art imitates life. It happened Tuesday night during Gonzaga’s third easy win to start the season, this one 97-66 over the North Dakota Fighting Hawks.
When KHQ’s broadcast came on from a sold-out McCarthey Athletic Center, there was a familiar face absent. Turns out Richard Fox, who shares analyst duties with another former Gonzaga player, Dan Dickau, was sick. But like Gonzaga has done this year, the broadcast crew didn’t go to the bench, the rotation just got shorter.
What they saw …
• Of course, Greg Heister did the play-by-play, as has been the case for many years. With Dickau alone next to him, Heister spent much of the game asking his partner questions, many on the Gonzaga transition offense, a longtime strength.
Which makes sense, because if there is anyone who understands what the eighth-ranked Zags (3-0) want to do in that regard, it’s Dickau.
“They can be as efficient as anyone in the country,” Dickau said in answer to the first of many Heister questions. Later, as they talked more about GU’s strong suits this season, Dickau concentrated on the Bulldogs’ knack at running.
“The ability to go from defense to offense as quick as Gonzaga does creates problems for so many opponents,” he said. It was the case in this one.
Though the Zags were only credited with nine fastbreak points, they did have 64 points in the paint, many of those coming in transition.
Corey Kispert led the Zags with 20 points, both inside and out. Filip Petrusev was the leading inside scorer with 19, all but his three free throws from around the basket. Freshmen Anton Watson and Drew Timme combined for 31 more.
Watson left the court with about 5 minutes left after suffering what looked to be a cut over his right eye, seemingly supplied by Timme’s left elbow during a play on a Marlon Stewart drive. He walked off and seemed OK.
• Though Fox wasn’t present, he was seemingly there through texts as Heister in the opening half occasionally referred to comments from the usual third member of the local crew.
In the second half there was a third member for real, in the person of athletic director Mike Roth, who made a cameo appearance.
They talked about the roster turnover, the program’s history, Watson’s abilities, the rest of the athletic department, academics and other subjects.
What we saw …
• Mark Few had a bit of disagreement with a foul called on Timme by referee Justin Shamion, an Inland Northwest resident, with almost 6 minutes left in the first half. At that time, the Zags were leading 34-22. The exchange of words allowed Heister to draw on his experience and make a prediction.
“We may a see a 10-0 run right here,” Heister said.
He was exactly right. The Zags went on a quick 10-point run to build a 22-point lead and crush North Dakota’s hopes.
In the second half, Heister looked at the stats, talked about GU’s large margin – it was 53-29 at the end – and said the Zags were going to be really good on the glass this season.
Kispert immediately put an exclamation on that point with a follow dunk.
“Did you have a crystal ball there, Greg?” Dickau asked. “ ‘A great rebounding team’ and then Kispert with the tip dunk.”
• Despite the easy win, the Zags used just seven players again – at least until the final 6 minutes and the lead was almost 25.
With Killian Tillie still sidelined following knee surgery, the main rotation has been short in each of the three blowout wins.
The key matchup …
• Early in the game, North Dakota’s Marlon Stewart was struggling to score. Though the Fighting Hawks (1-1) made it a priority to set a ball screen for the point guard whether in half court or transition, he did not score until after the Zags had built a 20-7 edge.
“Stewart has done a nice job of knifing into the lane either in transition or off the ball screen, but he hasn’t been able to finish,” Dickau noted.
Part of that was the Zags’ size inside. Part of it was the Gonzaga guards not quitting on the drives.
It took until point guard Ryan Woolridge, who had the bulk of the defensive duty early, left with a couple of first-half fouls, for Stewart to get going.
The 6-foot-3 senior finished with 21 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the floor.
Woolridge finished with just three points but had four assists, eight rebounds and two turnovers.
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