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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: Late night Apple Cup just fits in with the theme this holiday weekend

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Apple Cup Saturday. It has a nice ring to it after all the Apple Cup Fridays we’ve had to endure over the years. Let’s hope it doesn’t bleed into Apple Cup Sunday.

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• If you are a fan of Inland Northwest college sports, it’s been a tough weekend. Not only did Gonzaga lose last night, the Zags’ two games in Portland started near or after midnight on the East Coast. That’s in the 9 p.m. hour in these parts, not as late but certainly not early.

Just staying up has been a bit of a chore.

Which brings us to tonight’s football game in Pullman. ESPN has it slated for a 7:30 start.

(We always love writing it that way, but it’s necessary. It’s not Washington State or Washington setting the starting time. Not the Pac-12 neither. Nope. It’s the broadcast partner. The rest of us are, as Mongo said, are just pawns in the game of life.)

That’s not all that late. But a college football game can take up to four hours, depending on the propensity each team has to throw the ball. We know Washington loves to this season. And the Cougars aren’t averse to it either, though they would rather use Nakia Watson’s legs to power the offense.

Staying up to 11 or later to watch what may be the best finish to a college game this season – and/or the postgame celebration, which last year included a flag – isn’t easy for some of us. Maybe not you, Generation X member. But those of us who were born before JFK took over the White House can struggle.

Heck, we haven’t seen much of Gonzaga’s second halves this week – not a bad thing last night in the 84-66 loss to No. 16 Purdue – and they haven’t been as late as tonight’s game could be.

We’re ready though. We’ve figured out a time we can carve out a nap today, as long as either Oregon or Oregon State put away their rival quickly. That would allow us an hour or so before Notre Dame ruins USC’s season – again.

• You know how announcers everywhere like to refer to soccer as “the beautiful game?” If you are a fan of the sport, you get it. If not, then you snore through parts of any nil-nil second half. But that’s not our point.

We’ve felt watching Gonzaga play offensive basketball the past few years has been the real “beautiful game.” The Zags played with quickness and panache. The ball moved side to side with a purpose. It was shared immediately, one pass leading to the next, leading to an easy look and a bucket. Speed was of the essence. Efficiency was paramount. Nothing wasted, except defenders’ lungs.

That’s disappeared often in this season’s early games. It did again last night. Shot selection has gone from getting great looks to forcing up attempts through way-too-many hands.

It happened against the Boilermakers. And it was compounded by a few Zags not engaged to the level they needed to be on the defensive end. That the 18-point loss wasn’t more was testament to Anton Watson’s defensive effort and Drew Timme’s ability to score in a phone booth. Otherwise, GU looked out of sorts on both ends for the final 30 minutes.

And looked little like what’s it’s been for years: a top-10 team.

•••

WSU: The Mike Leach Era in Pullman is officially over. “It’s important for them and it’s really important for us,” coach Jake Dickert said this week of the Apple Cup, referring to Washington State’s always level-headed fans. They didn’t seem perturbed at all the decade Leach played down the rivalry game, nor were they upset when he lost almost all of them. Of course they were. But Dickert gets it. But will the Cougars get their second consecutive rivalry game win? Colton Clark believes so, in a tight game. His pick is accompanied by a preview and a look at the key elements. … Jacob Thorpe won’t be in Pullman tonight but he has some pre-Apple Cup thoughts. … Jabe Mullins and the Cougar men’s basketball team opened the weekend with a blowout win over Detroit Mercy at Beasley. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college football, Jon Wilner answers questions heading into the final regular-season weekend. … Washington is out to avenge last year’s loss at Husky Stadium and to knock the bad taste out of its mouth. … There were two Pac-12 games yesterday. Arizona won the Territorial Cup in Tucson, holding off Arizona State’s late bid to tie. … It’s appropriate Cal broadcaster Joe Starkey’s final Bear game came in a 35-28 loss to UCLA. California lost most of the games he described in a 48-year career. The Bruins didn’t play their best but ended a losing streak. … The most important game for the conference today is in the Coliseum, where USC hosts Notre Dame. … If Oregon wins today at Oregon State, the Ducks are in the conference title game. If the Beavers win, Utah still has a shot unless it loses to lowly Colorado. The likelihood of the former is decent. The latter? Nearly non-existent. … Stanford plays the conference’s final regular season game, hosting BYU. … In basketball news, Washington’s recent big win came late at night after most fans were sleeping. … Oregon is beat up and beat down. The Ducks lost again, this time to Michigan State. … The Beavers also lost yesterday in Portland but OSU feels better about its performance against Florida. … USC lost to Wisconsin in the Bahamas. … Colorado is happy to be home.

Gonzaga: The Zags’ loss means, after today’s off day at the tournament, they’ll face Sean Miller’s Xavier team on Sunday instead of the expected matchup with Duke. But that’s for later. Theo Lawson has the latest look at Friday’s game. … Jim Meehan has a story on Ben Gregg’s best game yet with Gonzaga. … Jesse Tinsley has the photo gallery from Portland. … The folks in the office put together a recap with highlights. … If you were thinking about attending today’s game between the Eastern women and GU at the Kennel, you can’t. The game has been postponed due to health and safety protocols. … Back to the men, others have thoughts on the game. … Elsewhere in the WCC, Portland picked up a big win, topping Villanova in the PK tournament. Theo Lawson has the coverage. … BYU picked up a win over Dayton.

Idaho: The Vandals play their first FCS playoff game in a long while today, traveling to Southeastern Louisiana. Peter Harriman has three things to watch. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana welcomes Southeastern Missouri to Missoula. … Weber State is hosting North Dakota. … In basketball news, Montana State got beat by UNC Greensboro. … Northern Colorado picked up its second win of the season. … Portland State lost to West Virginia.

EWU: The Eagles defeated Stony Brook 81-52 as they opened the Florida International Tournament.

Preps: There are three area schools still alive in the State football playoffs. Dave Nichols has a preview of today’s games.

Seahawks: The Hawks will feed Kenneth Walker III more this week as they begin their playoff push at home against the Raiders. … Cody Barton seems to be improving. … Dee Eskridge has been as well but now he’s headed to IR.

Mariners: Carlos Santana signed with the Pirates on Friday.

Kraken: Seattle started its road trip with two quick goals, got two more in the second period and shut out Las Vegas in the third en route to a 4-2 victory.

World Cup: The U.S. needed at least a draw Friday if it wanted to harbor hopes of getting out of pool play. It got it. The scoreless match means the men have to defeat Iran on Tuesday to move on but that’s better than having to win and hope. Five points will do it. The other impact of the draw? England has to earn a win or draw against Wales to move on.

•••       

• It snowed overnight in our part of Spokane. The roads look a little raw. It would be a good day to hunker down and do nothing but that’s not possible. We do feel for those driving to Pullman. Take care. Until later …

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