Every time the CBS Sports Network’s broadcast of Gonzaga’s 87-72 hard-fought win over host Santa Clara went to commercial Thursday night, it sounded like March.
The music CBS plays headed to a break is the same it uses during March Madness, a name it has copyrighted.
But the aural cue actually brought up bad memories of ancient March failures, which nothing that was happening early on in the Leavey Center assuaged.
At least while Carter Blackburn and Pete Gillen were describing the first-half action.
What they saw …
• Gillen, who coached at three schools east of the Mississippi, including his last stop, Virginia, hasn’t lost his accent as an analyst. Or his memories of playing Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament early in Mark Few’s career, something he described as video of the game rolled in the second half.
He also hasn’t lost a coach’s respect for the Gonzaga program, something he continually voiced, especially when the Zags had the ball.
He praised their ball movement. He praised their unselfishness. He praised just about everybody the Zags put on the floor.
In fact, in most cases, every player was “tremendous” either now or in the future.
• What wasn’t tremendous for Gonzaga was another injury for Killian Tillie. The 6-foot-10 senior went down with a rolled left ankle with 9 minutes left in the first half.
Blackburn and Gillen had the proper tone to their comments, but there was no hiding the fact they were also questioning his durability as they detailed his checkered history.
Or as Seth Davis said from the CBS studio after the game, “It sounds like a broken record.”
When Tillie emerged from the Gonzaga (22-1 overall, 8-0 in West Coast Conference play) locker room with a towel over his head and his left shoe untied, it was obvious he wasn’t coming back.
Few confirmed the news in an interview as the teams headed to halftime – once again harkening back to the way CBS broadcasts the NCAA Tournament.
What we saw …
• Tillie’s injury took one of the Bulldogs’ key weapons away – on both ends. But it also opened a door for Martynas Arlauskas, who came in averaging five minutes in conference games – most of it in mop-up time.
The 6-foot-6 freshman from Lithuania only played three minutes in this one – all in the second half – but they were important ones, what with Gonzaga’s short rotation.
In those 180 seconds he scored two points and grabbed just as many rebounds. He added some energy. And he gave the six usual rotation players left a little rest.
• As the first half wound down, a graphic appeared at the bottom of the screen, just above the 40-36 Gonzaga lead. It was the halftime score from the first meeting between these teams: 58-22.
The difference? Many things, including Tillie’s injury, Santa Clara’s much-improved 3-point shooting (8 of 24 as opposed to three total in Spokane) and the Broncos’ (17-6, 4-4) better preparation for the second-ranked Zags’ defensive game plan.
Or, as Few saw it, maybe it was just a simple thing.
“It’s called being on the road in college basketball,” Few told sideline reporter John Schriffen in a postgame interview.
But the home team had no one to match up with Filip Petrusev, especially after 6-10 freshman Jaden Bediako got into foul trouble.
Petrusev dominated the paint – Gillen called it “tremendous” at more than one point, including using the term twice in a timeout with less than a minute left – scoring a career-high 31 points (in 30 minutes) and missed a double-double by a single rebound.
He helped the Zags post a 62-40 edge in points in the paint.
The key matchup …
• Trey Wertz is Santa Clara’s leading scorer for the season, averaging 12.8 points a game. But the 6-4 guard wasn’t much of a factor in this one, hitting just 3-of-9 shots and finishing with nine points. He did, however, contribute in other ways, including grabbing five rebounds and dishing out five assists.
Those numbers came despite missing some time in the second half after inadvertently getting hit by a teammate’s elbow and slumping to the floor – about two feet from where Tillie had sprawled in the first half.
Wertz slowly walked to the Bronco bench, sat for a while and then returned to the game.
If the matchup was with Ryan Woolridge, then the Zags got the best of it.
The GU point guard not only scored 11 points – one of four Bulldogs in double figures – he also matched Wertz’s five rebounds and had one more assist.
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