By now, Jalen Suggs doing exceptional things isn’t a surprise to anyone. And what he did Monday night in Gonzaga’s 82-71 victory over host BYU didn’t astonish Sean Farnham and Dave Flemming. But it was enough to amaze them.
And it lead to the best dialog the game had to offer between the socially distanced ESPN pair.
What they saw …
• Suggs showed signs in the first half of what was to come, but only a glimpse. Mainly because, once again, he was saddled with two early fouls and played less than half the time. In fact, Farnham wanted to know how the freshman would handle the disappointment of sitting so long in the best challenge top-ranked Gonzaga (19-0, 10-0 in conference) would have in the West Coast Conference.
He got his answer. And how.
Suggs scored 24 points in 26 minutes. He had three assists and five rebounds. And that doesn’t come close to how he controlled the game. His performance impressed Farnham, sitting in Los Angeles, and Flemming.
“You watch this game,” Flemming said from San Francisco with about 7 minutes to play. “This is an argument for Jalen Suggs to be taken before anybody (in the NBA draft).”
“This second half has been extremely impressive for the Gonzaga Bulldogs,” added Farnham as Gonzaga built a 72-50 lead. “But it’s been really impressive for No. 1 (Suggs’ number). The feel. The understanding. The movement without the ball and his aggressiveness.
“(All are) next level. As are the Zags.”
• Farnham was adamant BYU (15-5, 6-3) was not that far off the Bulldogs’ pace, especially after finishing on a 21-10 run. But the Cougars’ 19 turnovers, which led to 26 Zag points, was No. 1 on his reasons for the loss.
“You’re handing them points when you turn the ball over like that,” he said.
There were other reasons as well, and Farnham pointed them out, from Drew Timme’s 20 points and 13 rebounds, Matt Haarms not scoring in his 15 minutes and the usual Gonzaga balance, with Andrew Nembhard adding 15 and Corey Kispert another 13.
But, as Flemming said, throwing the broadcast back to Scott Van Pelt, “if that was the biggest hurdle to clear before the tournament,” he said, “then hurdle overcome for the No. 1 team in the nation.”
What we saw …
• Broadcasts in this COVID-19 impacted season have issues we’ve never experienced before, a couple of which reared up in this one.
With Flemming and Farnham working remotely, the sound delay was annoying (as was the crackle early in their feeds) but not nearly as much as the in-and-out crowd microphones.
With the game beginning on ESPN News – Kansas’ win over Oklahoma State ran just a bit long – the feed from Provo seems have been lost somewhere in transit. When the game switched back over to ESPN at about eight minutes after the scheduled start time, the crowd noise returned. But only for a while.
Coming out of the second media break, there was a little more than a minute with nothing from the site, so Flemming and Farnham’s level seemed awfully high. As soon as the ambient noise returned, their levels were back to normal.
• Yes, there was a crowd in Provo. Not a huge one, but it was audible throughout the contest. Maybe that’s because not everyone shown on the broadcast was wearing a mask.
The BYU cheerleaders were, which marked two firsts. They were the first group of cheerleaders we’ve noticed at Gonzaga’s games this season. .
• ESPN teased a halftime discussion between Seth Greenberg and LaPhonso Ellis concerning trust. As in, what’s more trustworthy, Baylor’s defense or Gonzaga’s offense?
It sounded like a great discussion. Too bad local commercials took up so much time, we missed Greenberg’s explanation of his support of the Bulldog offense. It was reminiscent of Forrest Gump’s speech at the anti-war protest.
It wasn’t the only time it happened. After the 8-minute timeout in the second half, we missed part of the action after an Arby’s commercial.
• It happened with 15 minutes, 48 seconds left in the game. That’s when Farnham weaved in his usual Davenport reference.
The lead-in was, maybe appropriately, a discussion of Wendy’s sponsored award, the Wooden, which features three Zags among the final 20.
“That’s like trying to decide what flatbread you’re going to go with at the Davenport,” Farnham said, drawing a chuckle from Flemming.
“Everyone in the Northwest was waiting,” Flemming said, maybe expanding the geographic area a bit too much. “‘How’s he going to do it tonight? How’s he going to weave it in?’”
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