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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

TV Take: Gonzaga avoids holiday hangover with convincing victory against Auburn

Nov. 27, 2020 Updated Fri., April 2, 2021 at 12:26 p.m.

Gonzaga's Corey Kispert, right, dribbles away from Auburn's Devan Cambridge after GU's Anton Waston, left, stole the ball on Nov. 27, 2020, at the Fort Myers Tip-Off in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Chris Tilley/Fort Myers Tip-Off)
Gonzaga's Corey Kispert, right, dribbles away from Auburn's Devan Cambridge after GU's Anton Waston, left, stole the ball on Nov. 27, 2020, at the Fort Myers Tip-Off in Fort Myers, Florida. (Chris Tilley/Fort Myers Tip-Off)
By Vince Grippi For The Spokesman-Review

No one would blame top-ranked Gonzaga if it suffered a bit of a Thanksgiving hangover Friday morning against overmatched Auburn. No, not the food type, though that might have been in play considering the holiday. But the intoxicant in question was Thursday’s impressive win over No. 6 Kansas. And some troubling news that occurred before the game.

None of it, however, derailed the Bulldogs as they blitzed the Tigers 90-67 in Fort Myers, Florida.

As was the case Thursday, this one was broadcast by Fox and featured Adam Amin and Bill Raftery on the call.

What they saw …• Give the Fox crew credit, they didn’t wait to address the elephant in the arena. The Spokesman-Review’s Jim Meehan reported before the game two Gonzaga players were in COVID-19 protocols. Later, Dominick Harris’ father confirmed on Twitter his son was in quarantine because of contact tracing and Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reported the infected player was another freshman, Julian Strawther.

Amin and Raftery talked about it as the game came on the air at 8 a.m. with the veteran analyst summing up with, “It won’t go away, will it?” “Of course not,” Amin answered.

Now the question is how will it impact the rest of Gonzaga’s nonconference schedule. It was a query the Fox crew never addressed.

• It did, however, spend a lot of time talking about Jaylen Suggs, who followed up his 24-point debut with another well-rounded performance – six assists, four rebounds – that including a great early rim finish as part of his 10 points.

“How impressive was that?” Raftery asked as Fox showed four replays of what was just another exhibition of the freshman’s athleticism and skill.

But they didn’t stop with Suggs.

It seemed obvious Raftery’s favorite Zag is Drew Timme, the sophomore post who slithered his way to a game-high 28 points and 10 rebounds. At least four times, Raftery described Timme’s play as “old-school” and the 77-year-old former college head coach should know.

And, of course, there was the obligatory respect for preseason All-America Corey Kispert, who finished with 25 points, including 12 from beyond the arc.

That trio had 65 of the Zags’ points.

What we saw …

• If there is one Gonzaga (2-0) player who has significant local ties, it is Anton Watson, the Gonzaga Prep graduate. Which means those watching in Spokane were interested in hearing what someone of Raftery’s stature thinks of the sophomore’s game.

He told them, singling out Watson in the first half as “one of the keys this year for this team.”

“He’s got everything,” Raftery continued. “Size. Steps out a little bit. Understands the defensive schemes.”

Watson finished with six points and five rebounds in 27 minutes.

• Michael Greenstein is well-known to West Coast fans. The official works Pac-12 games consistently and is often in the Kennel. But the main reason he’s so recognizable is his love for calling offensive fouls.

His affinity showed in a 5-minute first-half stretch that included three whistles, two of which probably wouldn’t have merited a second look by most of his brethren.

The first came with just less than 7 minutes remaining before halftime and cost the Zags’ Suggs’ presence until after the intermission. Ninety-seconds later, Greenstein returned the favor, getting Auburn’s Devan Cembridge for extending his arm too far on a drive. Just before the half ended, Greenstein sent Oumar Ballo back to the bench – he had been for just a few seconds – with a post bump that hardly displaced the defender.

Greenstein did show admirable restraint in the second half, however. The Tigers’ (1-1) Babatunde Akingbola hammered Timme on a breakaway as Gonzaga stretched a 14-point halftime edge to as many as 30. The Auburn big seemed incredulous when a whistle blew. At least he expressed his incredulity verbally – and loudly.

Greenstein let it go.

• You could hear Akingbola’s arguments to some degree because the tournament was being held in front of a minimum of fans. The arena was not empty, so the murmur of those in attendance supplied a bit of a soundtrack.

The Fox basketball broadcast also brought back an oldie-but-goodie as its bumper music, recycling NBC’s old NBA theme song, “Roundball Rock.” Viewers who remember John Tesh – and Gary Payton’s Sonics – probably got a kick out of it.

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