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

A Grip on Sports: We think we have everything covered, from WSU’s win over Eastern to the woes of Seattle’s pro teams, but don’t bet on it

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Got your Christmas shopping done? What are you waiting for? It’s almost December for goodness sake. And the best sports-related deals have to be gone, right?

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• We have one for you. A can’t-miss deal. Take Washington and the points Friday night. Just kidding. Even though we feel deeply the first team to ever navigate the Pac-12 football season without a loss will hang with a team it defeated a few weeks back, we would never want anyone to place a wager based on our say-so. Like the chocolate cake we once tried to bake, it’s a recipe for disaster.

No matter how crippled the Huskies are, and the Interweb is rife with rumors UW quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is injured in some way, a 12-0 team with a resume filled with a history of winning tight games, should be able to hang within a touchdown of the conference runner-up, right? No matter how well Oregon has played the past six weeks.

It just makes sense.

Though when has sports made sense, really? It’s part of why we love it so.

Take the latest college basketball polls. The Gonzaga men headed off to the Islands, lost to now-No. 1 Purdue in a game the Zags led by five at halftime, won two other games in what many pundits called the best in-season tournament ever, and stayed locked in at No. 11 – as they’ve been all year. Huh.

Washington State’s women, coming off a season in which they won the Pac-12 tourney title and returned almost all of its key players, started out ranked 24th. Pretty low, considering the conference is obviously the best in the nation in its final season. Then the Cougars won. And won again. And continued to win until they played their third game in three days and lost their shooting touch a bit. Against a program, Green Bay, that does that to a lot of folks. One loss and, boom, no WSU in this week’s poll. Huh.

And don’t get us started on Saint Mary’s men. The golden boys. The pick to upend GU in the WCC this season. Ranked 23rd to start the season. Uh, it’s not going well. They lost again last night, this one 78-71 to visiting Utah. That makes it four losses in five games for the Gaels, two of them in their bandbox. They are no longer ranked, which might be the biggest surprise of all. Somewhere the president of The Logan Johnson Fan Club is saying “I told you so.” (If you don’t know, Johnson was their underappreciated senior starting guard last year, the only key player lost off last season’s 27-8 NCAA team.)

Last night something almost went awry for Washington State in Pullman against Eastern Washington. Again. But it didn’t as the Cougars held off their visitors from Cheney 82-71. Mainly because of Myles Rice.

If you follow the Cougars’ basketball fortunes, you know Rice’s story. If you don’t, you should learn it. The freshman sat out last season as he battled now in-remission Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Not the type of freshman year anyone would want. But the 6-foot-3 guard is making up for the lost time (he chose to redshirt two years ago and then had to use a medical one last season), averaging 17.2 points a game, including a career-best 28 last night, with six 3-pointers.

His path hasn’t been fun, but after waiting two years, it has to be satisfying for the South Carolina native. That his effort helped 5-1 WSU snap a two-game losing streak in Pullman to the Eagles just added to the satisfaction.

There has been little satisfaction recently for those of us who live and die with the antics of Seattle’s professional sports teams. The Seahawks? Middling. The Kraken? Less than middling. The Sounders? Disappointing. And the Mariners? If this offseason ends up like the last, we’re pretty sure they will be a revolt in Sodo. People marching the streets. Holding sit-ins. Overturning scooters and green bikes. Or just throwing up their hands in disgust and swearing they are done. At least until spring training starts.

That’s what the ownership is betting on, anyway.

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WSU: Greg Woods had the assignment of covering the U.S. Highway 195 battle. He has the game story from Pullman. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, Jon Wilner has his conference power rankings today (WSU moved up) and those of the Mountain West. … The CFP releases its rankings tonight but all that matters is what is decided on Sunday. In that regard, just about every scenario is covered in what has become the most hard-to-determine year in the last one of the four-team invitational. … The Heisman race seems to be up in the air as well. … Just where will California play its bowl game? How about Utah? For that matter, how about every bowl game’s matchup? … Washington’s Penix has been dealing with pressure all season, on and off the field. … The Ducks will try to apply even more Friday night in Las Vegas but Oregon is dealing with some injury issues itself. Mainly in the secondary. … John Canzano talked with Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes on Monday and Jonathan Smith leaving for Michigan State was the main topic. … Canzano also wrote a mailbag. …  It seems the Beavers will have their 2024 schedule ready to announce this week and will have a coach in place to talk with the players before the portal exodus begins. We still think it will be Trent Bray. … Shedeur Sanders has a broken back. Was it broken against WSU or earlier? No one is saying. But the Colorado quarterback needs better protection up front next season, that’s for sure. Meanwhile the Buffs lost two quarterback recruits yesterday. … UCLA won’t be cutting ties with Chip Kelly, no matter how loud the outcry from its fanbase. … USC’s roster turnover has begun already. … Who had the best years among Arizona State’s players? … Arizona is looking to find more money for its assistant coaches. … In basketball news, the Washington offense is improving. The defense has been a little slower to come around. … We can pass along a couple basketball power rankings, one for the men and another for the women. … The Colorado women are regrouping after their first loss. … The Buff men are about to face a ranked Colorado State team. … Purdue is No. 1. Arizona is No. 2. They meet soon. If they both take care of business beforehand, imagine the hype. … Finally, for the second consecutive year, Stanford will play BYU in the NCAA soccer playoffs. This year, the Cardinal women meet the Cougars in the College Cup semis.

Gonzaga: Funny thing about the men’s nonconference schedule. For the next four weeks, as Theo Lawson points out in this preview of tonight’s visit from Cal State Bakersfield, it’s up-and-down. A game against a not-so-terrifying school followed by one against one of this season’s powers. A rollercoaster if you will. … Theo also has the key matchup and this story on Anton Watson winning his first WCC player of the week award after his 32-point performance against UCLA. … Jim Meehan takes care of the poll news and has his Zags Basketball Insiders Podcast with Richard Fox, which you can listen to here. … Elsewhere in the WCC, as we mentioned, Saint Mary’s is in a bit of a freefall after another home loss. OK, a big freefall. … Funny, BYU is ranked this season.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, Montana’s women scored 108 points last night in a home win. … The Montana State men lost Sunday at home to Long Beach State. … Weber State’s men rolled last night, even without their best player. …Sacramento State is finally getting a new facility. … The Idaho State women broke out of their offensive slump in Hawaii. … In football, Sacramento State, given a reprieve by the selection committee, seized its FCS playoff opportunity. … Montana State has a tough assignment, but at least North Dakota State comes to Bozeman.

Chiefs: Dawson Cowan has been pretty stingy for Spokane recently. Stingy enough he was named the WHL’s goaltender of the week. Dave Nichols has more in this story.

Seahawks: Not too many days until we see if Pete Carroll’s calls for more urgency on offense actually make a difference. The Cowboys await Thursday night in Dallas. … One receiver is confident heading into the game. But we have to wonder how much better Geno Smith will feel. And if Shane Waldron can help keep him healthy.

Mariners: We linked Ryan Divish’s look at Julio Rodriguez’s 2023 season a while back when it ran in the Times. It is available on the S-R website today so we link it again.

Sounders: We also linked Matt Calkins’ column last night on the loss and do so again in the S-R today.

Kraken: How can Seattle get out of its recent funk?

Paralympics: Mead’s Hannah Dederick recently won five medals in the Parapan-American Games in Santiago, Chile. That news leads off the S-R’s local briefs column for this week.

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• We kind of wandered around this morning. It was that type of day. See you tomorrow. Until later …