Grip on Sports: Gonzaga’s first loss of the season had a handful of reasons behind it – The Spokesman-Review

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The quest for perfection ended on a not-so-perfect Senior Night at McCarthey Athletic Center. That’s the news flash. But there were a lot of reasons behind it. Read on.

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• We could count the reasons behind Gonzaga’s 79-71 loss to BYU last night but that would get really long. And we really don’t have the time.

We could point to the 16-of-29 from the free throw line and point out how many of those misses cost the Zags a chance to put some more distance between themselves and the underdog Cougars.

We could mention Eric Mika’s big night – 29 points and 11 rebounds – and his small foul total – two, though he continually put two hands or an arm-bar or a shoulder or a hip into the Zags bigs around the basket. One of those shoulders, which led to a Gonzaga turnover, also led to a Mark Few technical, as Randy McCall didn’t seem to appreciate Few pointing out he had missed another Mika blow.

We could point out the Zags’ 16 turnovers, including three by Josh Perkins in the final four GU possessions.

And we could marvel at up-and-down BYU holding the ball for 20 seconds or so on a few possessions before attacking a Gonzaga defense that had been so solid all season. And how the strategy worked often.

But we won’t.

We’ll just remark about how the Cougars have won in their last three visits to Gonzaga, how they have ruined two of the last three Senior Nights and how Mika and others seemed to revel in their interactions with the Kennel.

And, like the 29-1 Zags today, we’ll move on.

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Gonzaga: Jim Meehan was in the Kennel last night (he was also there two years ago when GU lost its Senior Night game to BYU) and has the bulk of our coverage, with a game story, an analysis and the keys to the game. … John Blanchette has his column. … Whitney Ogden has a story on the sad celebration afterward. … Michael Gulledge talked with the BYU folks. … The S-R was ready to put a bow on the Zags’ undefeated season. The papers were printed. And then never used. Editor Rob Curley explains how and why. … Finally, there was my view from the living room. … The game coverage had a different feel in the Salt Lake area. … The Gonzaga women also lost to BYU in a similar late-game meltdown. … Around the WCC, Saint Mary’s won its school-record 26th regular season game, defeating Santa Clara. … USF defeated Pepperdine in Malibu. … San Diego bounced back from a huge defeat to GU with a win over Portland.

WSU: Washington in is Pullman this evening. The Cougars have a rare chance to sweep the Huskies. Jacob Thorpe has an advance, as Ernie Kent tells us Lorenzo Romar belongs at UW. … Washington hasn’t lost 10 consecutive games ever. That’s on the line today. … The women, behind Nike McClure’s school-record 12 blocked shots, defeated Colorado. … Speaking of records, Washington’s Kelsey Plum is the leading scorer in women’s basketball history. And she broke the record in style. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, UCLA went into Tucson and gutted out a win over Arizona, 77-72 in a battle of top-five ranked teams with Final Four aspirations. … Another team with the same aspirations, Oregon, almost flopped at Stanford but held on for a 75-73 win.

EWU: The Eagles celebrated Senior Day with a win over Idaho State and by nearly moving into a first-place tie in the Big Sky standings. (North Dakota held off Northern Colorado in overtime to hang on to the top spot alone.) Jim Allen was in Cheney and has this story and Dan Pelle adds a photo gallery. … The Eagle women also won. … Portland State got past Northern Arizona and Sacramento State survived against Southern Utah.

Idaho: The Vandals were without leading scorer Victor Sanders last night but it didn’t matter. They found a way to get past Weber State 83-78 in overtime. Josh Wright was there and has this game story. … The Vandal women won on the road.

Whitworth: For the third time this season, Whitworth battled Whitman. And for the third time this season, second-ranked Whitman won. This time the win clinched an NCAA berth for the Blues. Whitworth has to wait and see if it gets an at-large berth.

CCS: The Sasquatch picked up a road win yesterday.

Preps: There is so much coverage of regional basketball action, it’s hard to figure out where to start. We’ll start with the 4A girls, with Central Valley continuing its winning streak and advancing to State with a 63-49 win over Sunnyside. … In 3A boys, Shadle Park lost to Wilson and its season ended. On the girls’ side, Mt. Spokane lost to Lynnwood. … Greg Lee was at U-Hi and covered East Valley’s win over Port Angeles to advance to the girls’ 2A State tournament. Greg also has a story on St. George’s state qualifying win in boys action and Freeman getting past Northeast A foe Newport. … Kevin Dudley has the story of Medical Lake loss to Hoquiam in 1A action and Dave Nichols covered Liberty’s win in the boys’ 2B. … We also have a roundup of girls play. … Idaho’s state wrestling finished up, with Post Falls falling short of a third consecutive 5A title. We also have a roundup of results in the other classifications. … Finally, we have some bowling news to pass along.

Mariners: The M’s opened their exhibition season with a 13-3 win against San Diego, sparked by Nelson Cruz’s three-run homer. … Ariel Miranda would love to start. … Edwin Diaz wants to close better.

Sounders: Seattle finished its preseason matches with a 1-0 loss, though there were some bright spots. … The Sounders are trying to pick up a Japanese star.

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• To finish up today, we want to pass along Joe Palmquist’s farewell as S-R sports editor. Joe is moving into a new position in the newsroom. He will be replaced as sports editor by Ralph Walter. So it’s obvious the sports department’s basketball prowess just improved remarkably. Until later …

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