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Gonzaga Basketball

TV Take: All eyes on Anton Watson in second half of Gonzaga’s victory over Northwestern State

GU’s Anton Watson splits Northwestern State’s Robert Chougkaz and Kendal Coleman on Monday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.  (Dan Pelle/THESPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Vince Grippi For The Spokesman-Review

There was probably no one in the McCar- they Athletic Center who really thought Northwestern State had any chance to upset No. 1 Gonzaga on Monday night. The Demons didn’t, as the Bulldogs rolled to a 95-57 victory.

Actually, there were only a few people there. The usual 6,000 were watching from home, either on KHQ, SWX or Root. And they were greeted by a different broadcast team, Rich Waltz doing the play-by-play, teamed with Richard Fox in a solo act as analyst.

What they saw …

• The only thing more different than the presentation was the Kennel atmosphere. It just wasn’t the Kennel everyone has come to know. Thanks to COVID-19, there were no fans.

Waltz, who spent many of his early broadcasting years in Spokane, mentioned it at the beginning. He and Fox talked about the impact it would have.

Throughout Gonzaga’s sluggish first half, Waltz and Fox discussed how the Zags had to supply their energy and not rely on the crowd to supply it. It was so odd, Waltz came back to it with less than a minute left, driving the point home again

“This is a bizarre atmosphere,” said in the first half, before adding that it was “completely abnormal.”

That doesn’t mean they didn’t have fun with it. After an outstanding play, Waltz said “And you can hear the fake crowd go wild.”

Fox laughed and mentioned sarcastically the chills going down his spine.

• With the opponent not close the caliber the Zags (5-0) have played earlier this season, Fox and Waltz were able to cover a lot of different areas, a large majority of which centered on basketball, something that can get lost in blowouts.

They covered the early season schedule. They covered the odd nature of the teams playing on back-to-back nights. They talked Jalen Suggs, Drew Timme – though they avoided discussing his new mustache – and Corey Kispert. They talked about the importance of getting reserves playing time in this type of game. They talked about the newest Zag, Ben Gregg, who graduated early and entered GU recently.

They covered a lot while still keeping the game in view and at the center of attention.

What we saw …

• The Zags’ first-half sloppy play carried over a bit into the broadcast, including into one usually spot-on area.

When Waltz spent a little time looking back at the truncated nature of last season, a graphic popped on the screen, headlined “2019-20 season.”

The first line read “28-4 record.” No, Waltz had it right when he mentioned the Zags were 31-2.

There were a couple of nbother times, however, when Waltz misspoke, which might be partly explained by the coronavirus-caused upper-level broadcast position.

For example, late in the opening half, Dominick Harris hit a 3-pointer, his first points as a Bulldog. But just seconds before, as Gonzaga yielded a layup after a press breakdown, Waltz mentioned the Zags had their starting lineup back on the floor. Maybe someday Harris will be in that starting five, but not on this night.

• Early Monday afternoon, CBS Sports writer Jon Rothstein sent out a tweet. “Well embedded moles in Spokane believe that a major key moving forward for Gonzaga is the continued development of Anton Watson. Could emerge into a valuable Glue Guy for the Bulldogs.”

You don’t need a “well-embedded mole” to know that. All you had to do was watch their games.

Waltz mentioned Watson and used the “glue guy” label, something Fox didn’t really follow up. He did, however, return to a refrain he used during the Gonzaga Prep graduate’s freshman year.

“Defensively he’s probably their most versatile player,” he said, “given his size and his ability to guard more than one position.”

Watson did that, with four steals and seven rebounds, but also added a career-high 15 points for GU, second only to Kispert’s 27.

“I really was impressed with Watson tonight,” Fox said after the game. “I thought he did an excellent job of responding to being challenged at halftime. That says a lot about his character. And you saw his ability.

“If he can play with that enthusiasm and that effort, that’s just a huge benefit for the team this year.”

• Did you notice something different about the Zags? They were wearing a throwback alternate uniform. The white unis included a retro-looking Bulldog with a big “G” on the right leg of the shorts.

• In a game that wasn’t expected to be close, one worry for any coach is injuries.

However, the Demons’ Carvell Teasett did a couple things that easily could have led to one. With just under 12 minutes left in the first half, Teasett hit his only 3-pointer and drew a foul on Aaron Cook by sticking his right leg forward and to the right as Cook ran by.

Ten minutes later, Teasett tried it again on a corner 3-pointer, one which Jalen Suggs challenged by running by at least two feet to Teasett’s right. No matter. The Northwestern State (1-8) freshman came down and hopped, effectively undercutting Suggs. No whistle resulted, but it was a dangerous play nonetheless.