Sports

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cut me, Mick!: A champion boxer answers our Rocky-inspired questions

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 12:21 PM

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For someone who could easily kick my ass despite my being roughly twice her size, Tiara Brown doesn’t look all that intimidating. It might be the smile, or the easy laugh when she talks.

She’s an engaging personality, to be sure, and probably uses that to her advantage when she’s pummeling foes in the boxing ring. Brown is a featherweight who won a world championship in 2012 and followed up with a USA national championship in 2014 right here in Spokane. Brown ended the year with a bronze finish at the 2014 world championships, her strength sapped by an illness that hit in Korea just as the tournament started. Bronze is great for some, but not for someone defending the title and aiming for the Olympics. “I was so disappointed,” Brown said during a visit to the Inlander office, “because when I’m not, I’m on it.”

She’ll look to be on it this week at the USA Boxing National Championships, fighting in preliminary rounds at The Hub in Liberty Lake before most likely reaching the semi-finals and finals at Northern Quest Resort and Casino Friday and Saturday.

During her visit to Inlander central, Brown agreed to answer some questions — all of them inspired by a Rocky marathon I watched days before we met:

Inlander: Have you ever eaten raw eggs for training?
Brown: Ewwww! No! I’ve thought of doing that to see what it’s like, but I can’t stomach it. The first thing I think is , I might get salmonella. If there’s a chance I met get it, uh-uh. 
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Have you ever chased a chicken around to get your speed up?

Check this out! When I went home (Ft. Myers, Florida) for Christmas, I actually did chase a chicken! But it wasn’t for training or anything like that. The chicken got loose from its den and it found its way down the block from this lady’s house. Me and my cousin were walking and heard “cockle-doodle-doo!” And this lady asked us to get him. I didn’t catch it! He ran away and I was like, “I can’t catch this chicken!”

To train for fighting Ivan Drago (in Rocky IV), Rocky runs up a mountain and throws logs around. What’s the most extreme thing you’ve done for endurance?
We have this drill in our gym called the playstation. We take a treadmill and put it on the highest incline. Then we take this water weight and put in on our back, and we have to climb up that treadmill for three minutes straight. And there are different stations we do for an hour straight with no break. Then we go to the next treadmill and it will be cranked to like 13 mph with no incline. Then there’s the dip machine. All of them for three minutes, with no break. My favorite thing is the tire. We flip that thing every day.

Own any pets like Rocky’s turtles or his dog Butkus?
I have a greyhound. She’s down at home with my mom. That’s my baby. She’s 10 and still thinks she’s a little puppy. She’s so lazy. When the doorbell rings, I’m looking for a bark. Nope. Freedom Brown is her name

If you could have any musician perform in the ring before you fight, ala James Brown in Rocky IV, who would it be?
Right now I’m on this new band The Script, I’m really digging them. My favorite band is the Kings of Leon. I love watching them on YouTube. They give it all.

When you’ve been out training, have you ever had a bunch of kids start following you or running with you?
Yeah. In the summer I’m actually in charge of a summer camp for boxing. Our boxing gym is attached to a rec center, and when I start running with our kids, the kids next door come out and want to run a lap with us. I’ll be doing like four miles, and to have the little babies come out and run with me, that’s fun.

Have you ever become friends with someone you’ve beaten in the ring, an old foe?
Sofya (Ochigava), she’s No. 2 in entire world, won silver in the Olympics back when I went up to 132 in 2010 to go to the Olympics. I fought her. She’s from Russia. When she fought everyone else, she wanted to destroy them. But when me and her fought, she wasn’t like that. We ‘ve been friends ever since 2010. We Skype every other weekend. Facebook. Instagram. The friends I’ve made. I never imagined.

The USA Boxing National Championships host the semi-finals on Friday and finals on Saturday at Northern Quest Resort & Casino in Airway Heights.  
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Monday, January 19, 2015

Fair-weather fans are worth cheering for

Posted By on Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 1:36 PM

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Right now, life is pretty sunny for fair-weather fans of the Seahawks.

But life is always pretty good for the fair-weather fan. That’s the entire point. If it’s sunny, they bask in it. And when it starts raining, they do the sensible thing and go inside and curl up with some hot chocolate. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Yes, if you leave a game before it’s over to beat traffic, you deserve to be mocked when your team improbably turns it around in the final quarter. Yes, it’s fine to make fun of my grandpa, who turned off the Apple Cup in disgust in 2012, only to miss one of the Cougars’ greatest comebacks.Yes, there’s a Quixotic sort of heroism to those shivering in the rain in empty stadiums, keeping vigil over a string of heart-breaking defeats. There is a nobility to the doomed sports fan, loyally manning the Helms Deep parapets as he sees his team slaughtered year after a year.

So yes, the diehards earn the right to brag when their team turns it around, to hold their head a little higher, to brag about how they were there man before their team was cool.

But it’s not immoral or shameful to be a fair-weather fan. It’s rational.

Sports, it sometimes helps to be reminded, are make-believe.

Nothing inherently changes in the world if the Seahawks win the Super Bowl, or the Mariners win the pennant, or the North Central High School distance runners win Nike Cross Nationals. But that surge of jump-up-and-down excitement you get when you win, that swagger and strut that follows, that’s real. So is the feeling of devastation when you lose, the sickness in your stomach that leaves you scowling, snapping at your wife, yelling at your kids.

Rooting for the team most likely to leave you smiling instead of brooding is just a wise mental health choice. 

Jump on the bandwagon. The bandwagon is a magical place, where we feel a genuine camaraderie that can supersede race, class, nationality, religion, politics, and all that destructive stuff of division. The bandwagon is packed and warm, and people are drinking, singing, and waving their foam fingers. 

And when it gets colder, when the singing stops, and the foam fingers start wilting, feel free to jump off, stick your thumb out on the roadside, and hitch on the ride on the next packed bandwagon to drive by.

Remember: The stuff of sports — the tackles and fouls and half-court shots and volleys and baton passes — are all put there for your entertainment.

If a sitcom jumps the shark, you stop watching. If Michael Bay’s last three movies have been painful to sit through, you stop shelling out for tickets. And if the Seahawks start sucking next year, it makes sense to pack up your 12th Man banner and find something else to root for. There’s so much to do in life, so many TV shows to binge through on Netflix, so many good albums to discover, so many books to read, articles to skim, video games to play through that won’t leave you depressed.

Even die-hard fans complain about the way that, in some sports, swaps, trades, and coaching turnover makes it feel more like you’re rooting for a stadium or a mascot more than any truly contiguous team. So why bother with loyalty?

There’s no karmic punishment, no angry sports God, no execution for treason, no dishonor upon your family if you abandon your team for a better one. There’s no sense in being more loyal to a team than that team’s athletes are to their wives.

It’s fun to watch sports.

It’s much more fun to watch sports when you’re winning.


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MONDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: The Seahawks miracle is the only thing anyone will be talking about today

Posted By on Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 11:43 AM

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Hopefully you aren't working today because it's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. But if you are at the office, it's likely that the first hour (or two) of the work day featured very little real work and a whole hell of a lot of people standing around trying to collectively process what happened in Seattle yesterday afternoon.

Even non-fans know what I'm talking about, because of TV or Twitter or the fact that the neighbor you've never met came to your door screaming that the Seahawks were going to the Super Bowl.

Seattle took down the Green Bay Packers in overtime by a score of 28-22. The score of was 19-7 Green Bay with just five minutes left in the game, making this one of the most ridiculous comebacks in NFL history. I know I've never seen anything like it.

But let's try to piece it all back together and remember all the outrageous plays that had to happen for the Seahawks to pull this off on a day when the typically reliable hunk of Jesus-loving muscle Russell Wilson threw four interceptions.

I'm a believer in the Seahawks since birth, but there was a part of me beginning to navigate through the stages of grief about halfway through the third quarter. The Hawks offense couldn't do anything and Wilson looked like he'd forgotten where he was half the time. It was all very sad. Then there was some light and the offense creeped down the field...only to stall in the red zone. Hell, we'll settle for a field goal, I thought. The following happened next:
So many unlikely things have to happen here and without this play, I think the game is pretty much over. First Jon Ryan, a punter whose also the holder (and a Canadian), has to make it to the corner and then has to throw a ball to a guy who's never made a catch in the NFL. And yes, all those things happened.

Then, the Seahawks had to play their best defense against a Packers team that was trying to backpedal their way into the Super Bowl with an ultra-conservative string of play calls. The Hawks got the ball back and Wilson threw a gem to Marshawn Lynch, who would take it inside the 10 yard line, setting up an easy run for Wilson.

Which brings us to the onside kick — one of the most exciting, but typically deflating plays in football — which yesterday changed the course of Seahawks history. You have to feel for the Packers player who let the ball bounce off his head and into the arms of Seahawks reserve receiver Chris Matthews (I'd never heard of him, either), but whatever, we'll take it.
Marshawn Lynch was playing like a man out for blood the entire second half. Maybe he was pissed that the NFL wouldn't let him wear his gold (as in made with actual gold) cleats, or maybe the guy just exists to punish would-be tacklers. He took the ball and did this, which, of course, included the obligatory nut-grab.
OK, so now the Seahawks have a 20-19 lead, which would be fine if they weren't facing Aaron Rodgers, a quarterback who can use the remaining minute and change on the clock to easily get his team within field goal range (which he did on the drive that followed). So, they needed a 2-point conversion, which they accomplished with a game of Flyer's Up. Here's how it sounded from inside the packed Century Link.
After Green Bay's far-too-easy drive for a field goal, the game headed to overtime. And any longtime fan who saw the Seahawks and Packers standing at mid field for an overtime coin flip was immediately haunted by this unfortunate Matt Hasselbeck moment from 2003. But thankfully the Seahawks kept their mouths shut when the coin flipped their way — which was also one of the biggest strokes of luck for Seattle on a day when they were already absurdly lucky.

So what the hell, first and ten just across midfield? Let's chuck this thing to Jermaine Kearse, the guy who hadn't caught a ball all day, and actually seen all the balls thrown his way get intercepted. Touchdown, game over. Seahawks are going back to the Super Bowl and I'm lying in front of my television set trying to figure out what the hell just happened.

There were other sporty things that happened this weekend, too, but no one will ever remember them, so we'll just leave you with this image of Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennet riding a police officer's bicycle. 
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Friday, January 16, 2015

Gonzaga learns about L.A. traffic and why free throws matter

Posted By on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 at 4:02 PM

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You didn't think it was going to be easy, did you?

While Gonzaga is the No. 3 team in the land (at least according to the polls), the notion that the Zags were just going to steamroll through the WCC schedule is some silly thinking, my friend. The target on the back of the perennial league leaders is as big and bright as ever this season and the WCC has some teams that can surprise you.

And then there are nights like last night at Pepperdine, which can pop out of nowhere, throwing rankings and statistical certainties into the Pacific Ocean. Long story short, the Zags won 78-76 in one of the weirder contest in recent memory.

The Zags found themselves sitting on their bus on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH to the denizens of Southern California) thanks to a traffic jam caused by a driver slamming into a light poll. TV announcers said the team was staying in Marina Del Rey and the drive up to Malibu (which is about 20 miles away) took them nearly two and a half hours, meaning they got off the bus less than 45 minutes before the scheduled tip off. Coach Mark Few gives a major hat tip to Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson, who agreed to start the game just after 8 pm, rather than the scheduled 7:30 pm tip time. Yeah, the late start made our local broadcast of the game nudge into one of the last ever episodes of Parenthood, but was a game that didn't skimp on the entertainment.

Did the traffic jam effect the outcome of the game? Probably. College athletes are used to routines. Everything is timed out on game days — when they eat, study, get on the bus, sleep, tweet — and a disruption to that formula doesn't bode well, especially when you're more than a thousand miles from home.

Now, does the traffic jam (or just "driving" as they call it in LA) explain why Gonzaga missed 19 free throws? It's the only logical explanation for how a team that has been averaging 70 percent from the free throw line (not amazing, but good enough) on the season could go so cold (14 of 33). It's even weirder because the Zags shot the lights out from the field (almost 57 percent, which is very, very good). Let's say the Zags shot their standard 70 percent last night — they would have made 23 free throws, giving them an easy 11 point win.

More likely, the reason behind the close game is that Pepperdine is good this season, a statement that no one has uttered for about a decade (the Waves haven't taken down Gonzaga since 2002). That doesn't explain the free throws, but it's the reason Pepperdine was able to come storming back in the second half, getting the shoebox-sized Firestone Fieldhouse roaring at times. The Waves Jett Raines (winner, best first name category) had 22 points and the beastly Stacy Davis had 21 of his own for a team that's going to be a pain in the ass for whoever faces them in the WCC tourney come March. Also, keep that in mind Pepperdine beat BYU in Provo last week

Or, maybe the free throw mystery was a result of Kevin Pangos' new hairdo, a Rick Springfield-esque blow dry number that our web editor Dan Nailen speculated about.
    One guy who doesn't need to worry about hair, because he keeps his Marine-short, is Kyle Wiltjer (who once had awesome hair of his own), who wasn't bothered by traffic or anything else, scoring 24 points, many of them on a second half tear when the dude couldn't miss. It was some Larry Bird and Michael Jordan eating Big Macs sort of stuff at times

But the Zags pulled out the win on what was, again, a weird night. You can count on a few other weird nights in the Weird Coast Conference as we head toward March. The Zags are still in LA, where they'll play Loyola Marymount (who are coming off their first WCC win of the season), which is only two miles from their hotel. So, in traffic, that's like only a 45-minute drive.

AND, THE COUGS WON!
Because the Zags game was delayed, it overlapped with what was a dynamite Pac-12 matchup down in Pullman that you probably didn't see. In a college basketball season that's been marked by low scoring and sloooow styles of play, the up-and-down shoot-out between WSU and Oregon was easily one of the most fun games I've tuned into this season. The final score? 108-99 — those are some late 1980s sorts of numbers.

The game was tied 94-94 going into overtime in Ernie Kent's first time coaching against his former team, and then the Cougars, thanks to three 20-point performances, including 26 points from surprise star Josh Hawkinson pulled away to secure their third win of the Pac-12 schedule. 
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Monday, January 12, 2015

MONDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: Seahawks one win from Super Bowl, Zags jump to #3, and the best shot you've ever seen

Posted By on Mon, Jan 12, 2015 at 11:01 AM


If you find yourself surrounded by chatting coworkers, family and friends, and don't have the time to keep up with the weekend's sportsball, we've got your back at Monday Morning Placekicker. Here's everything you need to know on Monday: 

HAIL THE D-BEAST!

Move over, Marshawn, the Seahawks D has a beast of its own. A whole squad of them really, given how Seattle's defense performed the second half of the season. But on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, safety Kam Chancellor was a freak. When he wasn't doing this: 
He was doing this: 
As Richard Sherman aptly put it, Chancellor doesn't just play football, he "damages people's souls." The game was tight at the half, and surprisingly high-scoring, but the end was never really in doubt. When Russell Wilson wants to go pretty much perfect on third-down passes — he was 8-for-8 on third down for 199 yards and three TDs — the Seahawks are impossible to beat. The final score was 31-17, and the original Beast Mode didn't really have to do much. He's probably saving it up for the NFC Championship on Sunday in Seattle at noon. 

The Seahawks will be playing the Green Bay Packers, the team they vanquished by 20 points the first week of the season. The Packers beat Dallas for the honor of facing Chancellor and Co. 

In the AFC, the Patriots will host the championship game Sunday afternoon after holding off the upset bid by Baltimore in a back-and-forth contest that had a lot of big hits, a lot of scoring (it ended up 35-31), and a lot of vacant stares by Joe Flacco. The Pats will play the Indianapolis Colts, who showed their decision to ditch Peyton "Noodle Neck" Manning in favor of Andrew Luck was a wise one by taking down the Papa John's pimp on his home field Sunday afternoon. 

ZAGS CONTINUE CRUSHING JAG, NOW NO. 3 IN THE COUNTRY
Stop me if you've heard this one before during the Bulldogs 2014-15 march. An undermanned-but-plucky opponent keeps it close for a while, then the deep, talented Zags muscle them inside with their big men, start hitting outside shots and end up pulling away for a comfortable lead. It happened Thursday against San Francisco, and again Saturday against Santa Clara. Przemek Karnowski and Kyle Wiltjer led the way, but it was another well-rounded effort.

This morning the Zags got the news that their efforts had been rewarded with a No. 3 national ranking. This is the highest mark since they were, of course, No. 1 back in 2013. The jump is attributed to losses by Duke, Wisconsin and Louisville in one of the crazier weeks in college hoops so far this season. 

They play again Thursday at Pepperdine in a game that could be close. The Waves — who've been very bad for almost a decade — beat BYU in Provo on Thursday and have a 4-1 WCC record going into their meeting with the Zags. 

KEEP AN EYE ON THE COUGS, AND MORE LOCAL HOOPS
A few weeks ago, it was unimaginable that Washington State would travel to Seattle and take down the then-ranked UW Huskies. While UW has shit the bed since Pac-12 play started, the Cougars find themselves a genuine threat, going 2-1 to open conference play, and they've yet to play a home game. On Saturday, they beat the Huskies 80-77 behind DaVonte Lacy's clutch free-throw shooting

Elswhere, EWU took out Idaho and hit 11 three-pointers, and now sits in first place in the Big Sky Conference. Gonzaga's women's team is undefeated in conference play after beating Santa Clara on the road Saturday. 

RANDOM ACTS OF AWESOME
Shot of the year? Decade? Century? 


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Monday, January 5, 2015

MONDAY AFTERNOON PLACEKICKER: Eagles prevail, Cougs win on the road and a happy bye week

Posted By on Mon, Jan 5, 2015 at 3:02 PM


This week's edition of the Monday Morning Placekicker is coming at you in the afternoon, because, well, the holidays are over and it's all foggy and wet out and, ya know, other excuses. But in case you spent the weekend in a post-holiday coma, here's what happened in the sports world, in case anyone asks.

EASTERN ROLLS
I've been rather upfront about my reckless jump aboard the Eastern Washington men's basketball bandwagon and on Saturday the bandwagon took me out to Cheney for the Eagles second Big Sky Conference game. They had taken a win the previous Thursday from Weber State behind 39 points from Tyler Harvey and on Saturday faced Idaho State, a three-win team that had traveled all the way from Pocatello (aka God's Armpit) on a bus for the game.
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There's this thing about Eastern that will drive my fellow bandwagon fans bonkers: they really play to the level of their opponent. This is good when they knocked off Indiana and nearly did the same to Washington and Cal, but then they struggle with a non-Division I squad like Lewis and Clark and then, on Saturday, let Idaho State hang around with just minutes left in the game.

Thanks to some great effort off the bench (Bogdan Bliznyuk had 17 points after Drew Brandon left with back spasms) and a string of forced turnovers, the Eagles prevailed 65-57. Venky Jois had 16 points, as did Harvey — who we should mention is the nation's leading scorer. If you needed another reason to get on the bandwagon, you shouldn't need a reason other than Tyler Harvey.

COUGS DON'T COUG IT
For the first time in 15 tries, the Washington State Cougars men's squad won a road conference game. They went all of last season without winning on the road, if you can believe that.

But Ernie Kent's maybe-better-than-we-thought Cougars won down in Berkeley, beating Cal 69-66. They are currently the only Pac-12 team to win on the road this season, after a number of surprising scores for the first weekend of conference play. For example, Washington lost to Stanford on Sunday, after having lost to these same Cal Bears on Friday. Needless to say, the Huskies are no longer ranked in either poll, despite flirting with the top 10 just a few weeks ago.

ZAGS KEEP ZAGGING
Speaking of rankings, Gonzaga saw their ranking go up to No. 6 in the AP poll, their highest spot since heading into the 2013 NCAA Tournament at the top of the polls.

Apparently, sports writers were impressed with the Zags two road wins last week: a gritty, kinda sloppy meeting with San Diego a week ago and Saturday night's closer-than-expected win in the always-tough Chiles Center at the University of Portland.

Against Portland, Kevin Pangos dropped in 21 points, as did big man Prezemek Karnowski, which was good to see.

BYE WEEK
Don't make the mistake of making conversation by asking people if they saw the Seahawks game this weekend, because the Seahawks didn't play. They didn't have to play, because the best damn team in the NFC isn't required to do so on the Wild Card Weekend. The Hawks will play Carolina in Seattle on Saturday at 5:15 pm. 

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Monday, December 29, 2014

MONDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: Plan your 12th Man Super Bowl parties now; Zags slap around BYU

Posted By on Mon, Dec 29, 2014 at 11:37 AM


You'll be forgiven if you didn't keep up on the weekend's sports given you have new toys to play with and family in town. But we can help get you up to speed, as we do every Monday. Let's do this: 

AND YOUR 2015 SUPER BOWL CHAMPS ARE...
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Is there any reason at this point to doubt the Seattle Seahawks will repeat as the NFL champs? Even if you were a little nervous at halftime Sunday, with the Seahawks down 6-0 to a tough defensive team in the St. Louis Rams, the 'hawks squashed any concerns in the second half, reeling off 20 straight points to win the division title, finish the season 12-4 (after being 3-3 at one point) and secure home field advantage all the way through the NFC playoffs. 

Sure, the offense isn't dominating — until it has to be, and that's when Russell Wilson and Beast Mode take over. And the defense is rolling in the same way it was last year, just stone-cold crushing every offense in its path. Need some evidence? Check out this ninja shit Earl Thomas pulled to save a touchdown Sunday: 

The teams with the best chance to MAYBE cause the Seahawks some problems are the Packers (who have a gimpy Aaron Rodgers), and the Cowboys (who would face the Revenge Factor in Seattle after handing the Seahawks their only home loss of the season). I wouldn't bet on either of those teams being able to handle the 12th Man. 

In other words, go ahead and start planning your Super Bowl parties now, the Seahawks are going to be playing on Feb. 1. 

ZAGS LIGHT UP BYU IN CONFERENCE OPENER
BYU ATHLETICS
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Granted, the 87-80 final doesn't exactly look like the Bulldogs "lit up" BYU, and there were moments when Gonzaga definitely lost the momentum on Saturday afternoon, but considering the Zags were playing in front of 20,000 opposing fans (plus a high-scoring BYU team), running up 87 points in a hostile environment is a pretty great way to open conference play. 

Among all the running and gunning (and utter lack of D for the most part) there were a lot of things to thrill Zags fans. Kyle Wiltjer dropped 24 points. Kevin Pangos looked like the player who got all that preseason hype, hitting five 3-pointers and totalling 21 points and five assists. Whenever it seemed BYU might take control of the game from Gonzaga, Byron Wesley hit a big shot, ending up with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Gonzaga's depth was clear in what could be the toughest road test of the season. They passed it, no problem. 

Gonzaga is at No. 7 in the latest poll, ahead of the Arizona team that gave them their only loss (good reason not to pay TOO much attention to polls, Zags fans). They play at San Diego tonight at 8 pm.

ALL HAIL STONY BROOK
With WSU facing what is most likely going to be a long season, perhaps Cougar fans can take some enjoyment from the disaster in Seattle Sunday night, when the undefeated UW Huskies lost to a school 99 percent of us wouldn't be able to find on a map —even if I told you Stony Brook is on Long Island in New York. And hey, WSU won a game Sunday against UC-Davis, too. Next up for WSU is the Pac 12 conference opener at Stanford on Friday. 

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Monday, December 22, 2014

MONDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: Bow before Beast Mode, Zags go on vacation

Posted By and on Mon, Dec 22, 2014 at 11:43 AM


Each week in the Monday Morning Placekicker, we get you ready to survive and contribute to every casual sports conversation inspired by the weekend's events concerning the Zags, the Seahawks and assorted other sports-ball teams of note. Let's do this. 

ZAGS SURVIVE AN UGLY BATTLE IN SEATTLE
Maybe it was the fact the players finished final exams the day before. Maybe it was because the game was played in the cavernous Key Arena in Seattle instead of the cozy confines of the home gym. Maybe it was because Gonzaga was finishing a dominant run through its pre-conference schedule just in time for Christmas, and a week before playing rival BYU on the road. 

Whatever the reason, the Zags struggled to beat Cal Poly in the so-called Battle in Seattle. We have a stellar report from the scene right here that you should check out. Suffice to say, the timing is good for the boys to get a few days off before the serious part of the season gets underway Saturday in Utah. 

EWU HANGS TOUGH, LOSES TO CAL
Eastern fans might be feeling a little down after the Eagles third straight loss, but don't despair! A tough loss to the Pac-12's Cal on Friday showed that Eastern is going to be a beast in the Big Sky. Venky Jois and Tyler Harvey combined for 54 points in the losing effort. Even with the loss, consider that the Eagles were on an 11-day, five-game road trip that included a stop at UW, and went 2-3 on the trip. And at 8-4, the Eagles had their best pre-conference season in 28 years. 

YOU SHALL KNOW HIM BY THE TRAIL OF BODIES HE LEAVES IN HIS WAKE
In the event that you didn't see last night's Seahawks game and don't subscribe to any form of social media or possess an AM radio or have talked to anyone who watches football, this happened in the second half of Seattle's thumping of Arizona.
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Here's how I remember this happening in real time:

Oh wow, he's gonna get a first down...shit he's breaking to the sideline...oh, but those guys have him bottled up and are going to knock him out of... — nope, he threw that dude to the ground and just embarrassed the entire state of Arizona! Go Beast, go! Don't get caught from behind! Oh shit, he's gonna score! And did he just grab his nards when he was flying into the end zone? Why am I standing on my couch? What year is it? Time has ceased to exist! That run must have ripped a whole in the time-space-continuum, but I don't care! I shall forever worship at the altar of Marshawn Lynch.

You get the picture. Marshawn Lynch exists on another plane of reality in which runs like this can happen and we all just need to accept that.

Here's how Steve Raible, the voice of the Seahawks, called the run on the radio. Yes, he definitely said "Holy Catfish."

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Thoughts on Gonzaga's annual Battle in Seattle (they won, by the way)

Posted By on Sun, Dec 21, 2014 at 9:01 PM

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Gonzaga handled Cal Poly, dispatching the Mustangs 63-50, on Saturday night in the 12th annual Battle in Seattle at KeyArena. To which Seattle Zag fans seemed to collectively shrug their collective shoulders.

The Battle in Seattle was once one of the highlights of any Gonzaga season, but unfortunate scheduling in the past couple years has led to less the marquee competition and sucked the excitement from KeyArena. While the Zags drew 16,241 in the 2012 Battle in Seattle versus Kansas State, they only mustered 11,741 for Cal Poly (though that’s an increase over the abysmal turnout for South Alabama last year: 9,140).

It’s hard not to jump to the conclusion that a section of the Seattle GU fan base is a little spoiled. Cal Poly, really? Why would I go to the game when it’s just gonna be a blowout? Seattleites don’t live and breathe Zaga hoops on a daily basis like Spokane residents. That’s not to say Battle in Seattle isn’t a community event for local alumni. Nearby KeyArena the Seattle Center campus, the Gonzaga Alumni Association’s Seattle Chapter hosted a pregame social at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. The event drew between 900-1,000 for drinks, food, photo opportunities, and pseudo reunion festivities.

While Gonzaga tickets are worth their weight in gold in Spokane and the fans bring the passion, the fervor has seemingly dissipated along that stretch of westbound I-90 over the recent years.

As coach Mark Few noted, “There’re a lot of people from Spokane, every year, that come over to (Battle in Seattle) because they can’t get into our games over there,” adding, “Obviously, it would’ve been great to have this one in Spokane, instead of here. But we kind of suck it up and do it for those other reasons.”

There’s also something incongruous about the lack of excitement on the west side, because it’s still mostly Gonzaga that’s the real draw, not the opponent. KeyArena would not be packed for Kansas State versus Seattle University. So shouldn’t a Zags team in ranked in the Top 10 rally fans to attend (after all they were only ranked #14 when they played K-State)? 
As the final tune-up before conference play, the game itself provided a decent preview of how many WCC games will likely go this season. Przemek Karnowski led the way with 16 points and 8 rebounds, with Kevin Pangos matching The Karnovore’s 16 points, including 4 3-pointers.

And while the game was never in doubt, the Zags had enough stretches of careless play, dumb turnovers, and missed open shots to keep the score closer than it should be. It also highlighted a few flaws that seem to haunt every Bulldogs team. The undersized Gonzaga guards struggle mightily when trying to pass into the post, which is especially an issue when the team’s best scorer and passer – Karnowski – consistently gets good position against his smaller opponents. They were especially flustered when Cal Poly’s 1-3-1 zone defense began to press and trap the GU ball handler outside the arc.

While the tilt against Cal Poly was Gonzaga’s last scheduled game at KeyArena this year, don’t count on it being team’s final trip. It’s not a lock, but all signs point to the Zags making a return trip in March, as it’s one of the sites the NCAA tournament
.
And you won’t have to worry about those games being undersold or lacking intensity.
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Monday, December 15, 2014

MONDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: Eagles grounded, but Zags and Seahawks ready to roll

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 11:39 AM


Whether it's catching up around the water cooler on a Monday, or making small-talk with coworkers at your office Christmas party, you need to be conversant in the latest sports news. That's where Monday Morning Placekicker comes in. Check it out: 

EAGLES END SEASON IN BRUTAL FASHION
Everything was set up for Eastern Washington to make a run to at least the Final Four this season. They won the Big Sky despite missing an injured Vernon Adams, Jr., for a few games. The star QB returned in time to lead the team to a win over rival Montana in the regular season, then again against the Griz at home in the Eagles' first playoff game. 

Hosting Illinois State on Saturday, the Eagles saw their season come to an abrupt end at the hands of a superior offense. The Redbirds racked up 59 points and 542 yards and held on to the ball for nearly 37 minutes. It's pretty hard for Adams to do his thing if he's on the bench, but that's where he was most of the day. EWU did run up more than 500 yards and 46 points themselves, but three turnovers (compared to none) did them in. 

Adams will be back for one more year, so there's no reason to expect EWU to dive in the Big Sky standings any time soon. The big question is whether they can keep coach Beau Baldwin. And even bigger — can ANY of the Big Sky teams keep up with their counterparts in the playoffs anymore? Been a few years since the Eagles title. 

While the season might be over, we still suggest you check out our awesome photo gallery from Saturday's game

ON THE UPSIDE FOR EWU SPORTS
The Eagles' men's hoops team already has one signature road win this season, taking out the Hoosiers in Indiana. Sunday, they nearly got another in Seattle against the No. 17 UW Huskies, falling 81-77. The Eagles took a 12-point lead into halftime, and battled to hold off the Huskies' comeback throughout the second half. UW didn't take the lead until just 1:27 was left in the game. After starting the game hot from outside, the Eagles were just 4-for-17 from 3 in the second half, and that did them in. The team has another crack at a Pac-12 team coming up at Cal before the Big Sky season opens. At this point, EWU is clearly a frontrunner for the conference title and a potential NCAA bid. 

ZAGS BACK ON TRACK
A week after the heartbreaking overtime road loss to Pac 12 favorite Arizona, Gonzaga packed up and headed on the road again for a showdown with a legendary basketball power also from the Pac 12, UCLA. 
RYAN SULLIVAN
  • Ryan Sullivan

Unlike the back and forth, wire-to-wire barn burner in Tucson, Saturday's matchup with the Bruins in Westwood was pretty one-sided, with the Zags exerting their size and deep bench on Steve Alford's club from the get-go. They were up 11 at the half, ended up winning by 13, and showcased Kyle Wiltjer and Byron Wesley, both of whom ended up with more than 20 points. Both teams hit nine three-pointers, but the Zags shot 59 percent from the field on the night, while holding UCLA to 42 percent. That's all you really need to know. 

Tonight, Gonzaga is back in action in Spokane, matching up with a 1-7 Texas Southern team that should be a gimme before the team goes to Seattle to face Cal Poly on Saturday. In other words, the Zags are a Top 10 team — No. 8 in the latest AP poll, to be exact — heading into the conference season, and looking like a team ready to roll into March with a high seed in the NCAA tourney as long as everyone stays healthy. 

The most exciting part of the game was having ESPN's Dick Vitale on the call, making his first visit to UCLA in 15 years. You might consider his style over-the-top, but he's still a PTPer in the announcing game, and hearing him sing the praises of Gonzaga coaches, players and program while they mopped the floor in the House that Wooden Built was pretty damn cool. 

SEAHAWKS POISED FOR A RUN
Sunday's game against the 49ers wasn't quite as dominating as the beat-down the Seahawks put on San Fran back on Thanksgiving, but the 17-7 win knocked the Niners out of playoff eligibility, so it was particularly sweet. And the Hawks have the look of a team ready to make a serious run in the playoffs to defend their Super Bowl crown. 

The D? Utterly dominating right now. They've only given up 27 points total over the past four games. That's just freaky-good in the NFL, as Grantland duly noted. The offense? Not exactly lighting it up, but Marshawn is Beasting again, Wilson continues to be scary-efficient, and last year's squad wasn't exactly scoring at a furious pace before Seattle crushed the Donkeys in the Super Bowl. The schedule looks good, too, as this week's opponent, the division-leading Arizona Cardinals, have to face the Seahawks with either their third- or fourth-string quarterback behind center. That should go well for them. If the Seahawks win the division, they'll host at least one home game, and with a little help from the Cowboys, Packers and Lions — help in the form of losing — Seattle could suddenly find themselves with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. 
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  • SeattleSeahawks.com

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