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A Grip on Sports: We’re getting to the time of the college basketball season when grinding out wins becomes necessary

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs, left, celebrates with Drew Timme during the second half Saturday as the Zags gained control of their game against Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Calif.  (Associated Press)
Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs, left, celebrates with Drew Timme during the second half Saturday as the Zags gained control of their game against Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Calif. (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Rise and grind. It’s like one of those signs Dr. Rick wants us all to throw away, as to not become like our parents. For college basketball players, however, it’s a mantra that rings true in conference games.

•••••••

• We’re not talking coffee here, though a bit of caffeine would’ve helped Gonzaga in its first half yesterday. Saint Mary’s offensive patience lulled the Zags to sleep, a situation made worse by GU’s own lethargy. But the top-ranked Bulldogs woke up and picked up their 14th win of the season.

No one, however, would say it was easy. Which, by the way, is the norm, not the aberration in most conference games.

Second-ranked Baylor had its hands full yesterday in Lubbock. Recently anointed national darling Michigan was buried at Minnesota. Louisville, Illinois, Clemson and Creighton joined the Wolverines as ranked teams handed defeats, two to unranked foes.

Heck, one of the few blowouts came in Clemson, where No. 18 Virginia scored 85 points, limited the 12th-ranked Tigers to 50 and helped lift Gonzaga’s strength-of-schedule metric.

Grinders happen everywhere, of course. One occurred in the Galen Center, as Washington State was sanded down late by USC. Across town, the Pac-12’s worst team, Washington, kept rubbing UCLA the wrong way, but the conference-leading Bruins rallied to win. Utah lost at home to California and Arizona State lost at Oregon State. If you are keeping score at home, two of the Pac-12’s weaker teams picked up Saturday wins and another came awfully close.

As we said, conference games.

Heck, Eastern Washington defeated Southern Utah on Thursday night and, in the doubleheader nature of the Big Sky season in this pandemic, turned around and lost to the Thunderbirds two days later. The schedule might be unusual but the outcome isn’t.

Maybe it’s time we get used to it.

• I mentioned in my TV Take today there was a small glitch in the audio during ESPN’s broadcast of the Zags’ win. It occurred in the second half. Then this morning I read there was a 4.2-magnitude earthquake in the area around the same time.

It made me wonder if the two were related.

Funny thing, though. I don’t recall Sean Farnharm nor Dave Flemming mentioning any shaking. Then again, both have lived in the Bay Area for extended periods, so a 4.2 quake might not have even registered for them. As someone who grew up in California, I understand becoming numb to such “minor” rumblings.

•••

Gonzaga: Can the Zags’ run the table? Sure. They have enough talent. But should we talk about it? John Blanchette has a little fun today poking at the superstition. Somehow, cookies are involved. Yum. Cookies. … Jim Meehan delves into the tough nature of the contest in his analysis and difference makers. … Despite the Bulldogs’ lofty rankings, there weren’t a lot of photographs out of the Bay Area, but we can pass along our recap with highlights and stories from around the region. … As we mentioned above, we have our TV Take. … The Gonzaga women took care of their Bay Area business earlier in the day, topping USF by 24. Connor Gilbert has the story. … Elsewhere in the WCC, Pacific is still undefeated in conference play after handing Loyola Marymount a 58-49 defeat. … BYU came from behind again, controlling the second half and rolling past USF.

WSU: The Cougars played their last four games in California, which is not the conference’s usual scheduling history. They went 1-3. Theo Lawson has this coverage of last night’s 85-77 loss to USC that ended the string. … Theo also has a Q&A with athletic director Pat Chun, who made the media rounds this past week. … Jim Allen took some time this week to delve deeply into the story of freshman guard Charlisse Leger-Walker, who has helped the Cougar women ascend into the national polls for the first time. … For more on Leger-Walker’s history, we can pass along this story as well. … Around the Pac-12 and college basketball, what has happened to Arizona State? The Sun Devils lost at Oregon State. The Beavers had been struggling mightily. … Speaking of struggling, Utah did against California, a few days after handling Stanford. Is there a hot seat in Salt Lake City? … Washington made UCLA struggle, though the Bruins rode a hot hand down the stretch to top UW. … Colorado made Stanford’s trip through the mountains a losing one, dominating in all phases. … Arizona has changed since the season began. … In football news, Arizona’s new staff has a lot of NFL experience. Maybe that will help the Wildcats attract a quarterback transfer. … Oregon is looking for a new defensive coordinator again. … It’s another big offseason of change at Colorado. … Same at USC.

EWU: Though the Eagles lost 99-94 at home to Southern Utah, Jacob Davison scored a season-high 31 points. Ryan Collingwood has more on that and the game in this story. … Tyler Tjomsland was also in Cheney and has this photo gallery. … A couple of former Eastern athletes played in yesterday’s NFL games, though Cooper Kupp missed the Rams’ loss due to a leg injury. … Around the Big Sky, Montana State is still undefeated in conference play after its win over Portland State. … Northern Arizona scored the final 12 points and handed Montana a stunning defeat. … Weber State filled a hole in its schedule with Yellowstone Christian. It wasn’t pretty. … In football, Montana may have an opportunity.

Idaho: The Vandal women bounced back and picked up a win at Northern Colorado. … The men lost at home to the Bears.

Seahawks: Pete Carroll’s reputation is taking a hit with the Hawks’ recent playoff woes.

Mariners: The M’s avoided arbitration with a trio of players.

Sounders: It looks as if the Jordan Morris rumors are true. Another report has him headed to England. The question is for how long?

•••       

• The PGA has decided not to play its championship at a Donald Trump-owned course in 2022. That opens the door for the major to be in the Pacific Northwest. That would be fun. Until later …

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