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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: Numbers never lie but some times they do open your eyes

Washington State forward Mouhamed Gueye (35) goes to the basket as Utah guard David Jenkins Jr., left, defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)  (Rick Bowmer)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Three numbers from Saturday’s local college basketball games stand out: 117, 189 and 1946.


• We’ll start with the last number, or more precisely, the only date among those digits. It’s pretty hard to fathom but Washington State hadn’t won a basketball game at the University of Utah since the first year of the Cold War. Yep. Joseph McCarthy had just been elected to the U.S. Senate. Winston Churchill was traveling around the U.S. describing an “Iron Curtain.” People feared the A-bomb.

Heck, it was so long ago, George Raveling was in elementary school and Dick Bennett was only 3 years old.

On Dec. 14th of 1946, the Cougars, in the midst of a road trip that would see them play twice at BYU, against Utah State, Colorado State, twice at Wyoming and twice more at Montana, faced off with the Utes.

And won, 33-32. No, Bennett was not coaching the Cougars, though the defensive effort would have pleased him. But a schedule that had Washington State playing four games in four nights? And seven in eight days? Not sure that would allowed today.

What is, however, is joy among WSU followers after the Cougars “stayed the course” in a 77-61 Pac-12 win in the Huntsman Center. That was Kyle Smith’s description of the much-needed road triumph, one that was keyed by Tyrell Roberts’ outside shooting and a nearly unbreakable late-game defense.

• Defense wasn’t on the agenda much in Cheney last night. Couldn’t have been, not with the two teams combining for 189 points. The Eagles hopped above .500 in the Big Sky at the expense of their neighbors from the south, who are still looking for their first conference victory.

Though Steele Venters’s 25 points led the way again (he’s third in the Sky in scoring), each Eastern starter scored at least 13 points.

Mike Dixon matched Venters’ total but even the Vandals’ 13-of-27 3-point shooting wasn’t enough to catch the Eagles in the 96-93 decision.

• Finally, it looked for a while as if Gonzaga would match the Cheney total all by itself against overmatched Pepperdine.

Heck, the Zags’ three most-often used bigs – Drew Timme, Chet Holmgren and Anton Watson – scored more points combined (55) than either team put on the board in the West Coast Conference showdown in Provo between BYU and Saint Mary’s.

Turning over to that game (the Cougars won 52-43) after watching the Zags was like firing up a time machine. One that left us in 1946, and took us on that aforementioned WSU road trip through the Wasatch Front. If there hadn’t been a shot clock, Saint Mary’s might still be looking for its first field goal attempt.

No clock was needed in the Kennel last night, however, especially when the ball was in the Zags’ hands. Most of the night it wasn’t there long, as the Waves parted and let Gonzaga get either good looks at the basket or an offensive rebound, which led to – you guessed it – a good look at the basket.

The 117 points was the most a Gonzaga team had ever scored against the Waves and the Bulldogs didn’t really keep the accelerator down. Heck, at the end of the contest, Pepperdine still had starters on the floor while the Zags were using walk-ons related to current or former coaches. And the lead continued to grow.

The numbers were staggering. Watson scored 19, Timme and Holmgren 18 apiece. The three shot 60 percent from the field as Gonzaga shot 58 percent overall. Six players were in double figures. GU hit 10 3-pointers. The home winning streak reached 60.

It was a wipe out.


Gonzaga: Theo Lawson was in McCarthey last night and has the main coverage with his game story and the difference makers. … Tyler Tjomsland covered the game with this photo gallery. … The guys in the office put together a recap with highlights. … We watched from home and wrote our TV Take. … Theo began the day with a story on Gonzaga’s COVID-19 issues. … How those issues could impact the fans at all sporting events (or any other large gathering) is the subject of this Arielle Dreher story. … Around the WCC, we mentioned BYU’s hard-fought win over visiting Saint Mary’s above. … USF got back to winning with a conference-opening defeat of USD.

WSU: The historically significant win – the last win against the Utes in Salt Lake City came 10 years before I was born and I’m on Medicare – was also significant in 2022 as the Cougars had lost four of their last five coming in. Colton Clark has that and more in this game story. … The game was covered in depth from the Utah perspective. … Former Cougar star Klay Thompson is returning to the court today for the Golden State Warriors. A couple of injuries have sidelined him for 941 days – more than two and a half years. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college basketball, UCLA traveled to Berkeley and edged California in a defensive battle. … Washington is still somewhat of a mystery as it faces Colorado in Boulder today. … Arizona hasn’t been hit hard with COVID-19 yet. The Wildcats are doing everything they can to keep the streak going. … Oregon and Oregon State will now play on Monday. Well, they are scheduled to play tomorrow. … In football news, Jon Wilner sees Washington State attracting Cameron Ward to Pullman. (Ward will make his decision this week.) And if the Cougars do, he sees him giving them the best quarterback in the North next season. … Lincoln Riley’s first USC coaching staff seems to be able to recruit. … Will the last player out of Boulder please turn out the lights in the team room? One of the Colorado cornerbacks that is leaving is headed to Eugene.

EWU and Idaho: Dan Thompson was at Reese Court yesterday and has this game story. … Dan also took some time this week to delve into the NFL success this season for Cooper Kupp and Kendrick Bourne. … The Vandals are once again hosting an NCAA regional in the Spokane Arena in March. Greg Mason has this story on the impact the women’s tournament could have on the community. … Around the Big Sky, Montana State lost its quarterback on the first drive and lost any chance of upsetting North Dakota State in the FCS title game. The Bison won their ninth in 11 years, 38-10. … In basketball news, Montana and Montana State will meet today for the first time since 2020. … Sacramento State rolled over host Northern Colorado 85-71.

Preps: Dave Nichols has a roundup of Saturday’s action that includes basketball, wrestling and gymnastics.

Seahawks: Rashaad Penny is on a beast-like roll. … The Hawks are in Arizona today to play the Cardinals. And the season is over. Seems weird. Though 17 games is the most the Seahawks have played lately.


• Still no test result. It’s been so long now it is immaterial. What a fiasco. And that’s all I have to say about that. Until later …