TV Take: West Coast Conference’s premier showcase between Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s draws best ESPN duo in the West
Feb. 8, 2020 Updated Sat., Feb. 8, 2020 at 11:03 p.m.
Gonzaga’s rivalry with Saint Mary’s is the best on the West Coast these days. So it’s appropriate ESPN put its best West Coast-based announcing crew on Saturday night’s game from Moraga, California.
As good as the Zags played, and they did, dominating on offense and defense in winning 90-60, the pair of Dave Flemming and Sean Farnham was just as good.
What they saw …
• How important are the games between these two teams?
Farnham, not ESPN’s most touted analyst though maybe its best, has his unique rating system.
“Wherever they go,” he said, referring to the Zags, “it’s a T-shirt giveaway game.”
Except, maybe, Moraga. No need. It’s always that important. Though lately, the regular season games haven’t been all that competitive.
Last year, the Zags (25-1, 11-0 WCC), won by 12 in California and by, uh, 48, in Spokane.
Then again, don’t forget that Gonzaga has won 38 consecutive conference season games, so T-shirt giveaway or not, the Bulldogs don’t lose during the WCC regular season.
Farnham has the answer to that question as well. A succinct one.
“This team is really good,” he said in the first half. He followed that up by alluding to Baylor’s ascension to the top of the rankings earlier this year following a week in which Gonzaga won two conference games easily, something he seemed to be shaking his head over.
“Not to say Baylor doesn’t deserve to be No. 1,” Farnham added, making sure those folks staying up in Waco wouldn’t email the home office. But he wanted to make the point that Gonzaga is exceptional – and other descriptive words meaning the same thing.
That point was also being made on the former McKeon Pavilion court, though there’s a corporate sponsor these days.
The Bulldogs were at one point 14 of 15 from the floor, had put together a 20-2 run and built a lead that reached 25 points. That was at the end of the half after Admon Gilder had delivered a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from right in front of the Gael (20-6, 7-4) bench. Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett dropped his head and his arms and stalked to the locker room.
“It’s a bold strategy,” Farnham had said earlier, channeling his inner Pepper Brooks. He was wondering if the Zags were just going to make every shot. They didn’t but did shoot 74.1% from the floor in the half, missing fewer shots (seven) than they had turnovers (eight).
“We get ready to start the second half and, yeah, that’s the score,” Flemming said, coming back to Moraga as the 53-28 score showed on the bottom of the screen.
Gonzaga’s Killian Tillie shoots against Saint Mary’s during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Moraga, Calif. (Ben Margot / AP)
What we saw …
• Early Saturday morning Gonzaga learned it was the third No. 1 seed in the NCAA’s first preliminary rankings, giving them the edge against undefeated San Diego State. And, if the Zags win out, they’ll keep it. Their schedule down the stretch is better.
Though Saint Mary’s, ranked 33rd by KenPom coming in, may not have looked the part, it’s still 13 spots higher in that analytic measurement than anyone not named SDSU in the Mountain West. Oh, and BYU is 16th in that rating.
• Pouting isn’t a good look for a college basketball player, especially when your team is winning by 25 points. But that’s what Filip Petrusev was caught doing. It’s not like Farnham will miss a 7-footer quitting on a possession.
With less than eight minutes left and GU leading by 19, Gilder missed a 3-pointer. Underneath, Petrusev was battling for position and seemed ticked when Drew Timme missed him and flipped the ball back to Gilder instead. The sophomore post turned his back on the play and walked away.
“That’s not good,” Farnham said, again seemingly shaking his head. “I understand, as a big, you want the ball and you’ve worked hard to get position, but you cannot give up on a possession like that.”
The key matchup …
• Jordan Ford makes Saint Mary’s go. While the Gaels weren’t doing much in the first half, neither was Ford. Mainly because Ryan Woolridge did a good job while getting help from the Zags’ switches.
In the first half, Ford was 4-of-10 shooting, missed both his 3-point attempts, and most important, had just one assist.
Ford finished with 23 points, though he missed 10 of his 20 shots. He also had just two assists as the Gaels shot 43.1% from the floor, nearly 25 percentage points less than GU, despite playing Ford and other starters until the end.
“It’s not Jordan Ford’s night,” Flemming said after Ford’s third turnover.
But his partner knew whose it had been. “It’s been all Zags, all night,” Farnham said.
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