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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

TV Take: Gonzaga’s comprehensive handling of Pacific was nearly over before it began

UPDATED: Sat., Jan. 23, 2021

By Vince Grippi For The Spokesman-Review

One nice aspect of a Saturday night Gonzaga home game broadcast by KHQ? It will never start late. Have you ever seen “Jeopardy!” run past its scheduled time?

Why is that a good thing? Well, if we had joined late Saturday night, during the Zags’ 95-49 wipeout of visiting Pacific, you would have missed when the game was decided.

By the time Greg Heister and his usual companions, Dan Dickau and Richard Fox, had warmed up their higher-than-usual McCarthey Athletic Center seats, this one was over.

What they saw …

• How over? After the first 8 minutes, the top-ranked Zags led 26-5, were shooting 60% and holding the Tigers to a woeful 14.3%. Sure, Pacific doubled its shooting percentage by halftime, but the Bulldogs built the lead to 30 points.

Or, as Fox labeled it, “(It was) about as good a first half as you’re going to play, if you’re GU, (on) both sides of the ball.”

The second half was just an exercise in trying to stay focused – and seeing if Jalen Suggs would post the second triple-double in school history.

The freshman point guard came up just short, much to Heister and company’s chagrin. He finished with nine points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

“We take from his reaction his game is over,” Heister said as Suggs left for good with 5:31 to play. Suggs did, however, get plenty of opportunity, playing a team-high 30 minutes.

• Part of Gonzaga’s offensive success in the opening 20 minutes, as Dickau pointed out at halftime, was fueled by Pacific coach Damon Stoudamire’s decision to have his defenders go under almost every screen, especially with Suggs.

“Teams are going to go under, dare him to shoot,” Dickau said of Suggs, who came in 14 of 39 from beyond the arc. He was 1 of 4 beyond the arc in this one.

But the other Bulldogs guards did what they are supposed to do, stepping back and taking open 3-pointers. After missing their first two, Drew Timme’s trail 3-pointer led to GU hitting seven of its final 13 of the half.

Gonzaga finished 12 of 26 from long range.

• The wipeout allowed Dickau and Fox to do what they do best, give viewers some sense of the historic nature of this group.

Take, for example, their conversation about Timme, who finished with a team-high 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

“You want to find a comp for him in Gonzaga’s storied history,” Fox said. “I don’t think there is one.”

If Fox, who has been around the program for nearly two decades, can’t think of a comparable player, then he’s more than likely right.

“I’m not sure Gonzaga has ever had a frontline player with this level of skill inside,” he said. “And the footwork. He’s so patient.”

Fox’s ultimate comp? Former Celtic Kevin McHale. Though not a Gonzaga player, it seemed appropriate, especially if you have a memory that reaches back to McHale’s University of Minnesota days.

What we saw …

• The Zags (15-0, 6-0 in the West Coast Conference) had played 10 games in 26 days after their 73-59 win at Saint Mary’s on Jan. 16. The schedule gave them Thursday night off, which allowed them to rest, sure, but also tighten up some things through practice.

It was obvious, as Fox pointed out more than once, they worked on defense.

“I thought their activity level defensively was on point tonight,” he said as the broadcast ended. “You saw a lot of deflections, a lot of energy defensively.”

The Zags were locked in on that end the first half, down in their defensive stances better than they have been all season and communicating throughout Pacific’s actions.

The Tigers (5-3, 2-2) were overmatched, shooting less than 30 percent all night, hitting just 2 of 16 3-pointers and not breaking the 30-point barrier until the last half of the second half.

• Speaking of the Tigers, they certainly look the part of a high-level college basketball team. If you watched them walk through an airport, then saw Gonzaga, you might pick Pacific as the top-ranked team.

That physical stature showed around the rim – Gonzaga won the rebound battle by 13, though it wasn’t easy. When it comes to hoop skill, however, there is no comparison.

• Dickau had quite the Saturday. Earlier in the day, he worked for CBS Sports Network, analyzing the Saint Mary’s Gaels’ 67-63 win at San Francisco. No, he wasn’t in the Bay Area. Like many games in the coronavirus era, he performed his duties from his Spokane-area home.

Then he drove down to GU.

“I don’t want to miss a chance to work with you guys,” Dickau said.

Or see the best team in the nation.

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