If your taste runs more toward understated among announcers, ESPN’s stable of college basketball broadcast pairs probably didn’t float your Thanksgiving gravy boat.
Except for Jon Sciambi and Jimmy Dykes. That was the duo on Gonzaga’s 73-72 overtime holiday win over Oregon in the Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals. The short-handed Zags will meet Michigan in Friday’s championship.
What they saw …
• Oh sure, Dykes, the former women’s coach at Arkansas, spent some time advertising the tournament host, the Atlantis resort and its dolphins. But most of the game he and Sciambi focused on the basketball.
They covered the Zags’ lack of depth – “they’ve got seven dudes,” Dykes said to start the second half, as Anton Watson sat with a boot on his right ankle. They talked about Gonzaga’s new-look offense – Dykes mentioned GU averaged 20 ball screen buckets a game last season, a number that has dropped to less than 13 this season. And they kept the focus on basketball down the stretch as the eighth-ranked Zags (8-0), down to five eligible regulars in OT, held off the 11th-ranked Ducks (6-1).
What they didn’t do was fake any animosity on air or talk about the number of fins on a puffer fish. It was mainly basketball.
“You have to move against Oregon’s defense,” Dykes pointed out in the second half, as Gonzaga’s offense became stagnant, saying the Ducks will confuse you if you don’t.
Then, just a couple of minutes later, Dykes explained why the Zags were so inactive.
“I think Gonzaga looks a little tired,” Dykes said after Oregon had tied it for the first time in the second half. “It’s not surprising. … They are playing seven guys.”
• If there is such as a thing as an announcer’s curse (spoiler alert: There isn’t), then Sciambi and Dykes invoked it on the Zags as they were cruising in the first half.
After spending some time marveling at how well the Bulldogs have shot this season, with Dykes capping the discussion by saying “they shoot it well in a ballroom,” the Zags immediately went cold. Spokane on Thanksgiving cold.
Over the next 6 minutes, Gonzaga didn’t hit a shot. And the Zags had chances. Twelve of them, some unchallenged. An early 17-point lead was cut to five.
What we saw …
• The “let-them-play” crowd must have enjoyed this one – at least for the first 30 minutes.
The trio of Jamie Luckie (the only official to ever T-up Virginia coach Tony Bennett), Bert Smith and Raymie Styons seemed as if they had dinner reservations at 6 p.m. Halfway through the second half, they had called a total of 14 fouls.
When Will Richardson was called for a foul on Filip Petrusev with less than 13 minutes left to play, Sciambi noted “by the way, that was the first foul of the half for either side.”
It was a blessing and a curse for Gonzaga. Playing just seven – remember the injury to Watson – they needed some forgiveness to avoid foul trouble. But the Ducks are so aggressive defensively, they certainly foul more often.
• Petrusev was the best Zag for much of the game, leading GU with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Early on Corey Kispert continued his hot shooting, scoring 11 points in the first six minutes but none again until late. He finished with 17 and seven, as Gonzaga won the rebounding battle 50-45. Oregon, however, had five offensive rebounds in the overtime period – though Petrusev grabbed the final decisive one.
The key matchup …
• Dykes believes Payton Pritchard is the best point guard in the country. He made that clear often as the Duck senior asserted himself throughout the game.
He certainly was the healthiest in this one. And it showed.
With Admon Gilder limping at times – he played just 20 minutes – and Ryan Woolridge wearing a sleeve on his left leg, the Zags weren’t at 100 percent defensively out front.
Pritchard took advantage, especially late, leading Oregon with 17 points, three of which kept UO within two in the final minute. He was just 7-of-23 shooting, however, and 3-of-9 beyond the arc.
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