It was Adam Morrison’s night at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Thursday. The Zags’ only national player of the year had his uniform No. 3 put on permanent display before the matchup with the University of San Diego.
So it was only fitting the local announcing crew of Greg Heister, Dan Dickau and Richard Fox came together for the first time in weeks to present the game on KHQ.
After all, Heister was already doing play-by-play while Morrison was wearing No. 3 at GU early in the century. Dickau had recently graduated, carrying an All-American plaque with him. And Fox was one of Morrison’s teammates. No announcing crew knows him better or could tell his story better.
By the way, the third-ranked Zags (28-2, 14-1) clinched another solo West Coast Conference regular-season title with a 94-59 victory over the last-place Toreros (9-21, 2-13).
What they saw …
• The game started some 11 minutes late due to the length of the pregame jersey-raising ceremony, which gave KHQ time to show some Morrison highlights that have been sitting in their vault for the past 14 years. One of the first was, appropriately enough, his first Gonzaga basket.
In New York. At Madison Square Garden. A jumper from the baseline. It was accompanied by commentary from teammate Blake Stepp, whose memory, reaching back about 16 years, still seemed incredulous considering the circumstances.
“He was great theater, wasn’t he?” Heister asked. A bit later, he looked back at Morrison’s junior (and last) year at Gonzaga, his player-of-the-year season. “All of those buzzer-beaters and the big shots,” Heister reminisced after being asked about his Morrison memories.
Interspersed with the action, which included San Diego within a handful of points until late in the first half, were memories of “Mo,” as Heister called him, using his nickname.
• The Zags blew out San Diego earlier in the season, leading by 20 midway through the first half. But this one wasn’t the same, despite the Toreros missing one of their best bigs, Yauhen Massalski, for the rest of the season with an injury.
That injury was noted by Dickau, who felt the loss of the 6-foot-10 junior might force USD to play four or even five guards. But it was 6-8 Alex Floresca who took advantage.
Dickau, who always does a tremendous amount of pregame work, didn’t figure the post would shoot 3-pointers – he had just two made in conference – or would demand double teams in the post.
All of that came right before the senior hit his first 3-pointer. And scored over Filip Petrusev in the post. He finished with 11 points, though he had to sit much of the second half with foul trouble. The Toreros were led by the 19 of Joey Calcaterra.
• Speaking of Petrusev, the group talked a lot about the award potential this season of the Zags’ leading scorer.
Much of that occurred during one of Petrusev’s poorer starts to a game this season. The 6-11 sophomore missed his first four shots, all within point-blank range over smaller Toreros. But he took over later and finished with 21 points, hitting eight of his final 12 shots.
It was Corey Kispert (16 points on 7-of-14 shooting), Ryan Woolridge (15 points, seven rebounds and six assists) and Tillie (12 points on 5-of-8 shooting) who carried the offense until Petrusev got going.
What we saw …
• It’s been a while for a local broadcast, with the local crew. It was also their last of the year.
Their best attribute, their local knowledge, was perfect for a game that was certain to be a blowout. And included the historical context.
There was the usual back-and-forth that often strayed from the game action – though Heister’s “I’m sure Rich Waltz will get (a present)” line was funny as Waltz teamed with Dickau on a home game this season.
There was the occasional mistake, though this season it’s obvious the support crew in the production truck is making a concerted effort to make sure they are corrected as quick as possible. That improves the experience for the viewer.
But most important, there is the in-depth information not only of the current team but from Zag days gone by.
The key matchup …
• Braun Hartfield wears No. 1 for USD and there is a good reason for it. He’s been the Toreros’ No. 1 option all season. Not in this one. The redshirt junior guard, who came in averaging more than 16 points a game in conference, was basically shut down by Kispert and the Zags’ team defense.
Hartfield, who averages 12 shots a game, had three points at intermission. With 6:44 left, Heister said, “Hartfield still with just three points for San Diego.”
He finished with three. On just five shot attempts.
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