Yes, the West Coast Conference is improved this year. It might even be the best it’s been.
But second-ranked Gonzaga is still the king. And the Zags showed it Tuesday night, avenging last year’s loss to Saint Mary’s by ripping the Gaels in the second half and running away with an 84-66 victory.
Bob Wischusen and Dick Vitale again sat courtside at the Orleans Arena for ESPN and, along with Sean Farnham on the sidelines, added their perspective.
What they saw …
• “I’m not sure (Drew) Timme’s parents know,” Wischusen said jokingly in the first half, “Dick Vitale has filed adoption papers,” though maybe he wasn’t really joking.
Vitale has a way of falling in love – his word about Gonzaga’s super sub – with whomever is having an outstanding game. Timme, with 15 first-half points – he finished with 17 – on 7-of-8 shooting, did just that and kept GU in the game.
Here are a few of Vitale’s accolades about the freshman post:
- “I think they are going to love him in Spokane because he’s going to be special.”
- “I’m just marveling at his potential.”
- “He’s my favorite player.”
- “A star is being born here today.”
Now just imagine three or four exclamation points and a couple of bold-faced words, and you have a sense of Vitale’s praise of the 6-foot-10 Timme.
• One other thing before the Zags (31-2) head to the NCAA Tournament as a likely No. 1 seed.
Vitale said more than once Gonzaga will be his choice for preseason No. 1 next season – as long as Filip Petrusev returns. That’s something the veteran analyst (and former coach) urged multiple times as Petrusev hit 5 of 6 shots en route to 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Add in Timme, Joel Ayayi (who had 17 points) and Corey Kispert (12), the return of Anton Watson, Oumar Ballo’s first season and the recruits, led by All-American Jalen Suggs, and Vitale may be right.
What we saw …
• What would a Gonzaga game with Saint Mary’s (26-8) be without some cross words?
There was an early technical when 7-1 Jock Perry blocked Ryan Woolridge’s drive, then told him, as we heard a producer telling the announcers out of break, to get the ball out of there. That’s a paraphrase of course.
But we didn’t hear whatever Mark Few said to earn his technical, also in the first half. It came, however, after Petrusev was called for an offensive foul by Randy McCall.
McCall also had words with Petrusev in the second half after Dan Fotu missed a dunk, Petrusev fell on the ball and Fotu’s foot hit him in the groin. Petrusev stuck his leg into Malik Fitts’ in the scramble and McCall came in hot. He had words with Petrusev, and ESPN’s cameras caught him staring angrily at the GU center.
• The cameras also caught quite possibly the most amusing moment of the game. When Kispert hit a 3-pointer with 11 minutes left, he was captured saying, “I missed you!” at his right hand.
“Corey Kispert,” Wischusen said, “had a little pep talk with his shooting hand.”
The key matchup …
• If it’s Saint Mary’s, it’s Jordan Ford. As goes the point guard, so goes the Gaels. He scored 42 points in the quarterfinal win over Pepperdine. He hit the winning shot in Monday’s semifinals, though he finished with just 18, almost four points under his average.
He nearly got to his average in the first half, taking advantage of Gonzaga’s predilection to switch screens to get open looks. He hit seven of his 11 shots and had 20 points at the half, which Gonzaga led just 42-41.
The Zags locked down on him, and on Fitts, who added 15 of his 17 before intermission, to run away.
Ford finished with 27 but only had two second-half points with 6 minutes left.
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