Gonzaga has played in front of a packed house at the Arena each of the past two years and came away with a pair of double-digit victories, which leads to a natural question.
Would Gonzaga have interest in a game annually at the Arena?
“I think so,” Zags Athletic Director Chris Standiford said. “Based off the Kentucky game (last season) and the response for (Thursday’s win over Pepperdine), it would seem like an obvious opportunity for us.”
The 24th-ranked Zags thumped Pepperdine 86-60, roughly 13½ months after handling Kentucky 88-72 with 12,333 on hand at the Arena.
Thursday’s contest was the CCF Classic with proceeds benefiting the Community Cancer Fund. Each seat had a CCF Classic rally towel for fans when they arrived. Players from both teams sported limited edition CCF I AM T-shirts during pregame warm-ups and on the bench. Coaches from both teams wore white CCF polo shirts.
Money raised assists the fight against cancer in the Inland Northwest.
“It was fantastic tonight,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “Last year Kentucky was absolutely amazing, it was electric. The Community Cancer Fund is obviously close to Marcy and (my) heart and something that we really support.
“It’s been an awesome event that kind of morphed out of our Coaches vs. Cancer that needed to grow and we just weren’t capable of growing it. Supporting something like this and to fill the Arena, it just makes for a great night. Like Graham (Ike) said, I think the guys really enjoyed it.”
Gonzaga played one game at the Arena every season from 2007-12 and raised more than $750,000 for Spokane’s Ronald McDonald House Charities.
The CCF Classic was included for Gonzaga’s season-ticket holders. The timing of the game coincided with GU students still on semester break. The Arena seats roughly twice as many as the 6,000-seat McCarthey Athletic Center.
“I think we’ve found a lot of success coming down to the Arena the last couple years with the community support,” Standiford said. “This obviously has a special feel to it being able to be part of this with the CCF, a great cause in the community. When the building is full, it’s an electric environment. We love the McCarthey and we’ll continue to feature games there when students are here for sure, but this is pretty cool.”
Standiford said Thursday’s game was “certainly a perfect fit for us this year. We’ll assess afterward and see how it works out, but any time you can have a game in the community that allows more access and more support and exposes a cause as great as the CCF, it’s a home run for everybody.”
“If we have the good fortune of having that dialogue with Gonzaga University we would be so appreciative,” said Jon Neill, CCF executive director. “This is an outstanding opportunity for us, not only for visibility and awareness for the needs of the cancer patient community, but likewise in providing significant funding for those in need.”