First off, if you’re going to knock the Zags, wait until whoever it is you’re a fan of is on the court with them, not after one of their conference wins—and not while you’re trolling the internet trying to work away life’s frustrations or some personal vendetta by putting the kibosh on people cheering about something they love. I hope there’s no Gonzaga fans looking for easier wins by ranked teams in other conferences and trying to demean them. That’s just petty. Admittedly, wins in the Big 12, ACC, SEC, Big 10, etc. are, perhaps, harder to come by than in the WCC at times. But that is just the lot each of these teams has been given, and I think that Gonzaga did the best it could to try to make their situation as difficult as possible by scheduling one of the toughest non-conference schedules of any team. If the issue you have is the number next to your team’s name on the television screen (Gonzaga’s got a 2 right now, and many assume it will be a 1 on Monday), same your comments for the people who rank teams. It’s not like any of those numbers matter anyway.
I do take offense, though, at “hasn’t played anyone decent”—not because I think Gonzaga’s opponents have been stellar compared to other teams. But these are Division 1 college basketball teams. Anyone playing on any of these teams is very likely a whole hell of a lot more “decent” than any of the people making these comments—in terms of their skills on the court as well as their morals. Before you go popping off a slanderous comment about any team, remember all the guys on these teams, on any of these teams, are college student-athletes. Many of them are not so far from high school, they’re studying their asses off, finding their identities and at the same time trying to excel and compete in the very demanding world of Division 1 collegiate sports. And you’re going to demean them, saying they’re not anyone decent? Weak sauce. In all seriousness, you should be ashamed of yourself.
As far as the game with Pepperdine goes, it was a momentous one in that Josh Perkins became the career assist leader for Gonzaga, by passing Matt Santangelo’s record of 668 assists. Perkins had a good night breaking it, with 9 assists and 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting. The only gripe with Josh Perkins that anybody on the Zags side of things had before or after the game, perhaps, is we wish he’d shoot some more. But he’s making a whole lot of pretty damn good decisions as far as I’m concerned, often allowing his point total to linger in the single digits when, with his great assist-ance, everyone else is tallying big numbers. He only seems to be taking a few more shots when things are getting stagnant for everyone else—giving the team the boost it needs to get back on track. He’s truly elite (should get more attention from the NBA if he’s not getting it now) and like an elite player, when asked about his record-breaking career so far, he said: “All the credit goes to my team.” Humility is truly a wonderful quality.
The Zags hit the boards well with a tally of 38 rebounds as opposed to 29 for Pepperdine. Having missed only 3 free throws in the last two games, the 10 of 14 (just over 70%) numbers for the night weren’t impressive, but as a fan, I’ll take 70 percent any day. When I played basketball in high school, if you shot less than 70% for free throws in practice you ran suicides. I ran a lot. Maybe at the collegiate level you’re looking for 80 or more but 70 doesn’t seem too shabby. Maybe the most worrisome part of the game was the turnovers. Gonzaga turned it over 14 times as opposed to 13 for Pepperdine. There were portions of the game that looked far too sloppy and maybe a little lazy for the Zags who are putting together very impressive portions of the most recent games, but we haven’t seen 40 minutes of intensity and great, careful execution since the first game against Saint Mary’s.
Fast forward to Saturday night, post Senior Night blowout of Brigham Young! Gonzaga put together the 40 great minutes I just asked for with only momentary lapses of intensity. The intensity and great, careful execution were definitely on display. Gonzaga had 6 turnovers while forcing 15. Now, I’ve never been a fan of BYU. I lived in Provo for a short stretch long ago. I was about 25 years old, working for bricklayers at the time as a hod carrier, and living in my boss’s backyard to save on rent. I got a membership at the YMCA so I could shower regularly and enjoy the facilities. Though I wasn’t completely shabby all the time, I must have been a pretty sore sight after long days in the sun doing that very difficult work. Looking shabby in Provo makes one the brunt of a good deal of disdain from the locals and as that consistent disdain continued I came to loathe the place. It’s not that I wouldn’t have received the same disdain in other places. It just happened to have happened there for me and therefore I’ve got an ingrained dislike for the area in and around Salt Lake City. I know there are very good people in Provo and all over that area. I worked with a number of them, I met a few of them. The majority of my time there wasn’t so hunky dory though. What I’m getting at is I have always particularly relished Gonzaga besting BYU, especially by great margins—and any loss has particularly stung (their second meeting in 2017 when Gonzaga lost their then perfect record to BYU in particular).
Team numbers were excellent. 54.5% on field goals, 45 % on 3s, 77.8% at the foul line. We had a 40 to 31 advantage in rebounds, and, as I mentioned earlier, only 6 turnovers. I don’t think any Zag fans could have been more proud of their team on such a special night than the people at the theater and the people at the game and in Spokane and all over the nation and everyone watching on ESPN. Like the cherry on top of a really sweet sundae, there was the announcement recently that Oumar Ballo has committed to Gonzaga—the 16 year-old, highly talented and heavily recruited center that has been called “Baby Shaq” I believe—and who can, straight up Ball-Yo. He’s 6’-10” tall, but at 16, perhaps he’s got some more growing up to do. He, like the rest of a really, really, really excellent incoming freshman class for the team in 2019, knows Gonzaga is not only an upstanding program morally, but is going to treat him and his teammates right and set him up for success in the NBA. The staff, the players, the fans and the university are all going to give him their best. This team is for real, and woe to anyone who stands in its way. This year, next year, every foreseeable year to come. I’m already not only dreaming of a National Championship in 2019, but of a repeat in 2020. Give me a shout out if you agree or disagree (I won’t believe you but I’ll respect your right to disagree).
~ Clark Karoses