There aren’t many places in the West Coast Conference in which the weather is better than that experienced at the University of San Diego.
It’s the road trip every conference school outside of California looks forward to, as the temperature is nearly always in the 70s and that seems to be the minimum points the visitors score.
The top-ranked Zags scored many more, as one would expect, winning 90-62 Thursday night. And the two Spokane folks broadcasting the game for the WCC, Greg Heister and Dan Dickau, didn’t get to experience the best San Diego has to offer.
The duo had a similar seat to the rest of us as they watched the feed in a local studio and relayed their thoughts over KHQ in Spokane.
What they saw …
• The difference in pace was obvious from the beginning, an early stretch that favored the short-handed Toreros, who had just seven scholarship players available.
San Diego, as Dickau was quick to point out, played patiently on the offensive end, milking the shot clock and making the Zags (16-0, 7-0 WCC) defend for 30 seconds.
It worked. San Diego (2-7, 1-4) led 19-14 with 8 minutes, 44 seconds left before halftime.
That was high tide for the Toreros. In 101 seconds, the Zags scored 10 points, part of a 15-0 run that helped build the lead to as many as 11, the lead they took into intermission.
• One reason Gonzaga took off? The Zags took care of the ball. Early on, they were turning it over, something that seemed to disappoint Heister. After their sixth of the first half, he pointed it out.
“The Zags turning the ball over at a rate I don’t think they have all season in half of basketball,” he said. If he and Dickau had been in the Jenny Craig Arena, instead of calling the game remotely, one might think the Zags heard him.
They finished the half with six and the game with 13, although some of them came late.
What we saw …
• Calling a game remotely has to be a difficult task. At least as compared to broadcasting the game from sitting next to the floor in an arena.
Dickau even referred to it just a few minutes in, as he and Heister tried to figure out some on-court action that wasn’t completely clear.
“(That’s) one of the challenges of calling it from 2,000 miles away,” Dickau said.
There was a play early in the second half that illustrated it about as well as it could be.
It started with Jalen Suggs doing his best to guard 6-foot-7 wing Yavuz Gultekin in the post. As Gultekin pivoted, his shoulder connected with the 6-4 Suggs, who went down as if he had been hit by a Mike Tyson left. There was no whistle, but there was a turnover as Gultekin dribbled the ball of his foot.
After Corey Kispert scored two of his 19 points, Gregory Nixon blew his whistle and stopped play. It was under 16 minutes, so the game stopped for a media timeout.
Neither Heister nor Dickau knew what prompted the whistle. After we returned to San Diego, Heister first reported it as a Gonzaga timeout. He quickly corrected the report, saying it was a warning for a flop from Suggs.
The duo watched the replay and, as Heister verbally shrugged, saying, “I’ve seen a lot worse than that.”
Dickau agreed as they discussed the need for a guard to sell contact, especially inside, to entice a call.
The next Gonzaga possession, Kispert drove, Gultekin cut in front, retreated about 2 feet, never stopped, flopped and still earned a charge call from Daryl Gelinas.
• Sound is such a part of college basketball. But it’s also a part that has been basically eliminated by COVID-19, especially on the West Coast.
Thursday’s broadcast had a soundtrack, injected either within the arena or down the line, showing up only while the ball was in play.
It was distracting, but it did serve to cover up any untoward comments made by the players in the heat of battle.
Another noise, which popped up late in the first half, didn’t seem to serve any purpose, other than to irritate everyone watching. The high-pitched sound lasted just a few minutes, but it was noticeable. When it disappeared, the silence was appreciated.