Sports

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. 
SEATTLESEAHAWKS.COM
  • SeattleSeahawks.com

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Photos: Illinois State vs. EWU, FCS Quarterfinals

Posted By on Sun, Dec 14, 2014 at 10:35 AM

Eastern Washington ended its season 11-3 after losing 59-46 to Illinois State in the quarterfinal of the Football Championship Subdivision. Eastern Washington's quarterbak Vernon Adams threw for 425 yards and 3 touchdowns, but was sacked 4 times and had 2 interceptions. Illinois State's running back Marshaun Coprich ran for 259 yards and 4 touchdowns. Illinois State will head to east to face New Hampshire next week in the semifinals.

Drew Blincow, left, paints Brianna Duren's face before the game. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Drew Blincow, left, paints Brianna Duren's face before the game.

Eastern Washington fans cheer as the EWU flags are carried around the sidelines before the game. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Eastern Washington fans cheer as the EWU flags are carried around the sidelines before the game.

Eastern Washington running back Cody Hecker (36) encourages fans to cheer. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Eastern Washington running back Cody Hecker (36) encourages fans to cheer.

Illinois State defensive back Mike Banks (24) breaks up a pass intended for Eastern Washington wide receiver Cory Mitchell during the first half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State defensive back Mike Banks (24) breaks up a pass intended for Eastern Washington wide receiver Cory Mitchell during the first half.

Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) runs after making a catch against Illinois State defensive back DraShane Glass (14) during the first half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) runs after making a catch against Illinois State defensive back DraShane Glass (14) during the first half.

Eastern Washington running back Quincy Forte, right, scores a touchdown against Illinois State during the first half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Eastern Washington running back Quincy Forte, right, scores a touchdown against Illinois State during the first half.

Illinois State running back Marshaun Coprich (25) is brought down by Eastern Washington linebacker Cody McCarthy (47) during the first half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State running back Marshaun Coprich (25) is brought down by Eastern Washington linebacker Cody McCarthy (47) during the first half.

Illinois State wide receiver Jon-Marc Anderson (6) catches pass against Eastern Washington defensive back Tevin McDonald during the first half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State wide receiver Jon-Marc Anderson (6) catches pass against Eastern Washington defensive back Tevin McDonald during the first half.

Illinois State wide receiver Jon-Marc Anderson (6) is brought down by Eastern Washington defensive back Tevin McDonald (7) during the first half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State wide receiver Jon-Marc Anderson (6) is brought down by Eastern Washington defensive back Tevin McDonald (7) during the first half.

Illinois State running back Brady Tibbits (30) runs for a touchdown against Eastern Washington. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State running back Brady Tibbits (30) runs for a touchdown against Eastern Washington.

Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (3) runs against Illinois State during the first half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (3) runs against Illinois State during the first half.

Illinois State linebacker Meehan Pat (33) breaks up a pass intended for Eastern Washington tight end Zach Wimberly (9) during the first half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State linebacker Meehan Pat (33) breaks up a pass intended for Eastern Washington tight end Zach Wimberly (9) during the first half.

Eastern Washington cheerleaders perform during the first half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Eastern Washington cheerleaders perform during the first half.

Eastern Washington wide receiver Shaq Hill (1) runs against Illinois State during the first half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Eastern Washington wide receiver Shaq Hill (1) runs against Illinois State during the first half.

Eastern Washington running back Jabari Wilson (2) runs in for a touchdown against Illinois State linebacker Alex Donnelly (40) during the first half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Eastern Washington running back Jabari Wilson (2) runs in for a touchdown against Illinois State linebacker Alex Donnelly (40) during the first half.

Eastern Washington running back Jabari Wilson, right, celebrates with teammate wide receiver Cooper Kupp during the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Eastern Washington running back Jabari Wilson, right, celebrates with teammate wide receiver Cooper Kupp during the second half.

Illinois State running back Marshaun Coprich (25) runs against Eastern Washington during the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State running back Marshaun Coprich (25) runs against Eastern Washington during the second half.

Illinois State running back Jamal Towns (38) avoids a tackle by Eastern Washington defensive back Victor Gamboa (27) during the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State running back Jamal Towns (38) avoids a tackle by Eastern Washington defensive back Victor Gamboa (27) during the second half.

Illinois State running back Marshaun Coprich (25) scores a touchdown against Eastern Washington during the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State running back Marshaun Coprich (25) scores a touchdown against Eastern Washington during the second half.

Eastern Washington mascot, Swoop, walks along the sidelines during the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Eastern Washington mascot, Swoop, walks along the sidelines during the second half.

Illinois State quarterback Tre Roberson (5) stretches the ball forward as he is brought down by Eastern Washington defensive back Tevin McDonald (7) during the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State quarterback Tre Roberson (5) stretches the ball forward as he is brought down by Eastern Washington defensive back Tevin McDonald (7) during the second half.

Illinois State running back Marshaun Coprich (25) runs against Eastern Washington during the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State running back Marshaun Coprich (25) runs against Eastern Washington during the second half.

Illinois State quarterback Tre Roberson (5) runs in for a touchdown against Eastern Washington during the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State quarterback Tre Roberson (5) runs in for a touchdown against Eastern Washington during the second half.

Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (3) looks for a teammate to pass to against Illinois State during the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (3) looks for a teammate to pass to against Illinois State during the second half.

Illinois State wide receiver Lechein Neblett (85) catches a pass he runs in for a touchdown against Eastern Washington defensive back Victor Gamboa (27) during the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State wide receiver Lechein Neblett (85) catches a pass he runs in for a touchdown against Eastern Washington defensive back Victor Gamboa (27) during the second half.

Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) hauls in a touchdown pass against Illinois State linebacker Meehan Pat (33) during the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) hauls in a touchdown pass against Illinois State linebacker Meehan Pat (33) during the second half.

Illinois State players prepare to take the field against Eastern Washington during the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State players prepare to take the field against Eastern Washington during the second half.

Eastern Washington players watch during the final minutes of the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Eastern Washington players watch during the final minutes of the second half.

Illinois State running back Jamal Towns (38) is brought against Eastern Washington defensive lineman Matthew Sommer, top, and linebacker Miquiyah Zamora during the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Illinois State running back Jamal Towns (38) is brought against Eastern Washington defensive lineman Matthew Sommer, top, and linebacker Miquiyah Zamora during the second half.

Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin walks off the field with his players after a timeout during the second half. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin walks off the field with his players after a timeout during the second half.


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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Inside the Kennel Club: Beating WSU edition

Posted By on Thu, Dec 11, 2014 at 3:45 PM

IMG_0343.jpg

Inlander contributors and Gonzaga seniors Franny Wright and Jenna Mulligan will be taking you inside the Kennel Club, the Zags' renowned student section, in this occasional series to give you some insight as to what makes these kids amongst the rowdiest in all of college hoops.

At 6:15 pm, almost two hours before Gonzaga and Washington State tipped off, a line of GU students had already formed in a snaking curve around the backside of the Spokane Arena. On this Wednesday before finals week, the Zags put down their books and flocked — on foot and in shuttles — to fill the student section for this rivalry game that had been moved to the much bigger Spokane Arena. Different court; same urgency.

The student section filled hurriedly in an arena that was otherwise empty. To the students, it’s never just about being present — it’s about being as close to the court as possible. They peeled off jackets, revealing a sea of red and a hodgepodge of costumes, and then settled in to wait for the buzzer to sound. The moment the Zombie Nation began to play over the loud speaker, those individual faces would become one cohesive voice in the energy of the Kennel Club, leading Gonzaga on to a 81-66 win over WSU on a night when the team captain, Kevin Pangos, didn't even score, but three other players all went for 20 or more points.

Here's what some students had to say.

Kacie Waagbo, freshman

I got here 72 minutes before the game, and we sprinted in because we knew we’d have to rush to get a good seat. I wanted to go to a school where basketball was big, and, well, ninth in the nation is good enough for me.
Kacie_Waagbo.jpg
Hayden Nelson, sophomore
It’s been pretty live here in the arena tonight. WSU is always a really huge game, so it’s just cool to be here, feel the energy, and make it crazy. I dressed up because it’s Christmas, everyone likes power rangers, and … well it’s America so you kind of do what you want.
Hayden_Nelson.jpg
Sean Dorsey, freshman
I’m the Pope. I’m just trying to bring out my personal Jesuit as a Gonzaga student. Why not embrace it? I may wear it again, but the Pope likes to pick and choose where he’s seen. Being in the Kennel and having this experience is a huge part of Gonzaga. It really just makes you feel like a part of the school and community.
Sean_Dorsey.jpg
Marie Marshall, senior
I’m a ghost, because BOO WAZZU! I make a different costume every year. I was a cow once with a sign that said “Waz-Moo-Who?”
Marie_Marshall.jpg
Brandon Pitzer, senior
This place is huge ... I’ve got 900 of my best friends here, cheering for the same thing. That’s why I love this.
Brandon_Pitzer.jpg


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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Some new nicknames for the Zags

Posted By on Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 2:01 PM

While the Zags faltered late in route to a disappointing overtime loss to Arizona on Saturday, the team made it abundantly clear that it will remain in the national conversation all season. They hope to keep rising in the polls with a win tonight against cross-region rival Washington State at the Spokane Arena. That game is at 8 pm on ESPNU (in case you didn't get a ticket to the sold-out contest).

But you need more than a good team to hook a national audience, which brings us to a subject where Gonzaga is historically weak: nicknames. Think about it, the last time Gonzaga had a national superstar was Adam Morrison, aka the ‘Stache. But there just aren’t any good nicknames attached to any current Bulldog players. Let’s change that. Grantland’s Mark Titus already came out of the box strong last week, suggesting the tandem of Poland’s Przemek Karnowski and Lithuania’s Domantas Sabonis be called the “Low Bloc.” But here are five suggestions for individual players.

20141101_GUMensBballvTRU-RPS-7782.jpg
5. Przemek Karnowski — The Karnovore
Feed The Karnovore the ball in the post, and watch him devour his prey (undersized opponents). The Karnovore is a mountain of a man (clearly that he not one to skip meals, nor should he) and he deserves a nickname that national audiences and announcers can really sink their teeth into. The nickname value is heightened further because so many people can’t say his actual name (looking at you, Dan Dakich). This needs to happen. It’s too perfect. 

4. Byron Wesley — The Trojan Horse
20141101_GUMensBballvTRU-RPS-7943.jpg

The former USC Trojan seemed to appear unexpectedly out of nowhere, but it’s other teams that should beware. Wesley might not look the fearsome foe with a slightly atypical game that centers on his driving bank shots, but when unleashed, the Zags can ride his offensive attack to victory. Just look at the game versus St. John’s. When it looked like there might be trouble for the Gonzaga army late in the game and the reliable soldiers (Pangos and Bell) weren’t coming though, The Trojan Horse emerged from his relatively quiet state and attacked the rim with a seasoned ferocity that the foes simply couldn’t properly prepare to stop. Now about that airballed free throw...

20141101_GUMensBballvTRU-RPS-7948.jpg
3. Connor Griffin — Not Mike Hart
As in:
Mom or dad walks into the room near the end of the game.
“Oh, is that Mike Hart? Is he still on the team? I always love his hustle.”
“No, that’s Not Mike Hart.”
"You sure?"
"Yes."
Note: Mike Hart is a graduate assistant coach on the team this year, so there's a chance your mom or dad could actually see him on TV.

20141101_GUMensBballvTRU-RPS-7695.jpg
2. Gary Bell Jr. — GB3
I operate under the belief that at least 20 percent of the popularity of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (at least before his career went in the tank), was because everyone loves saying “RG3.” It’s simple, easy to understand, and rolls off the tongue. “But Gary Bell is a Jr., not a III!” Correct. But what shot is Gary Bell’s specialty (especially now that he’s shooting them aggressively)? The 3-pointer. Plus, GB3 triples the alluring long "e" vowel sound that’s only doubled in RG3. Come on people, this one’s awesome and takes no effort.

20141101_GUMensBballvTRU-RPS-7988.jpg
1. Rem Bakamus — The REM Cycle
Mark Few doesn’t like putting his end of the bench guys in the game. Even with a 19-point lead at home with 2:30 left in the second half of this week’s Southeastern Louisiana game, the only guy not in the rotation to get minutes was Connor Griffin (for 1 minute). But when benchwarmer Rem Bakamus checks in, the game “enters The REM Cycle” and fans officially know it’s over. They can turn off their TVs and go to bed to dream about another Zags victory.

Feel free to share your own Gonzaga nickname suggestions in the comments.

All photos by Ryan Sullivan.


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Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Morning Placekicker: Nursing the Zag blues, a big win at Eastern, 'hawks are back

Posted By and on Mon, Dec 8, 2014 at 12:47 PM

RYAN SULLIVAN PHOTO
  • Ryan Sullivan photo
So here's a fact: The Gonzaga men's basketball team's last two losses came at the hands of the Arizona Wildcats.

Those losses didn't feel the same. Not at all. The one last March was a 23-point beatdown that was over by halftime. Saturday's loss, though, was different. Oh man, it was different. Zag fans can still feel it down in their gut at the mere mention of the overtime loss. It was one of those defeats that your mind won't let go of.

The thinking goes something like this: How did they give up those layups down the stretch? What about that last possession in overtime? What the hell was Sabonis doing when he double dribbled? Isn't that, like, fourth grade stuff? And the air ball free throw that could have prolonged the game? How does that happen? Why have you forsaken me, Gods of Basketball? Why do the Zags always struggle in big games like this? We might as well give up now.

Calm down, Zag Nation. Things are going to be fine. That was a very, very good team that's only going to get better and is likely to run the tables in the Pac-12 (except if a surging Utah team has anything to say about it). That loss is not a bad one, at least in the grand scheme of things. Yes a win would have been a hell of a lot nicer, but look, the Zags didn't even slip in the polls! Kevin Pangos still is growing a great head of hair! The guys are back in action on Wednesday night in the Spokane Arena against Washington State (8 pm on ESPNU if you didn't snag a ticket).

That one might still hurt, but you need to move on.

EAGLES ROLL
Playing in dreadful conditions (38 degrees and raining, the scientifically verified most disgusting weather phenomenon) the Eastern Washington footballing organization began its roll toward the Football Championship Subdivision national championship by knocking out regional rival Montana by a score of 37-20.

Vernon Adams tossed for an uncharacteristically low 182 yards, which was good enough to put him over the 10,000-yard mark for his career. Reminder: Adams is only a junior and has another year to add on to that total. The dude is going to have some insane numbers by the time he's done playing out in Cheney.

The win takes the Eagles to the quarterfinals where they'll meet Illinois State at EWU's Roos Field at 1 pm on Saturday. As of the time we published this, there were still tickets available. 

HOW SEAHAWKS GOT THEIR GROOVE BACK
By winning games, obviously. But not just winning games, really, but doing so in a manner that convinces a country of naysayers that the Seahawks are back in championship mode and are coming to eliminate their opponents' histories of ever existing on this planet if they don't get the hell out of the way.

Seattle won at Philadelphia 24-14 yesterday against an Eagles team that a lot of people think might be headed to the Super Bowl. But that score is misleading, given that the Hawks all but gift wrapped a touchdown for the Eagles thanks to a rare miscue by World's Greatest Punter John Ryan, leading to a fumble. And the Seahawks could have scored even more if Marshawn Lynch hadn't fumbled.

The Seahawks defense made butt-fumbling quarterback Mark Sanchez invisible and held the team's offense to less than 200 yards, a rarity for a Chip Kelly-coached team. At one point I think I saw Kam Chancellor take the very will from an Eagles kick returner and stomp it beneath his feet. You'd think this is all hyperbole, but it's not. The Seahawks are back and they're coming for you.

They play the 49ers in Seattle next Sunday. The 12s will be in full force.

WOMEN ZAGS WIN
Perhaps like the rest of Zag Nation, the players for the women's team were still a bit blue about the ending of the men's game Saturday when their own tip-off arrived Sunday afternoon, because it's hard to remember an uglier start to a game at any level.

There's cold shooting, and then there's what the Gonzaga women were doing Sunday. They opened the game on an 0-for-16 streak that would have buried them if they competition were someone better than 1-6 Portland St. The Vikings had shooting issues of their own, opening up with a 1-11 shooting clip themselves. The one positive is that it was a relatively foul-free game, so even though it was roughly 2-1 halfway through the first half, at least the bricks were coming quickly, not between missed foul shots. The shoddy shooting led the Bulldogs to grab a season-high 52 boards on the day.

The Bulldogs eventually got hot from 3, surging to a 32-12 halftime lead and pulling away from there to win 73-41. Elle Tinkle played well in front of her visiting pop, Oregon State men's coach Wayne Tinkle, scoring 10 and adding 12 rebounds.

Next up, the streaking WSU Cougars in the Kennel on Tuesday at 6 pm. 

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Gonzaga's huge, enormous game in Arizona and all the other weekend hoops you should care about

Posted By on Fri, Dec 5, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Mark Few takes his Zags down to Arizona to face a wild beast of an Arizona team. - RYAN SULLIVAN PHOTO
  • Ryan Sullivan photo
  • Mark Few takes his Zags down to Arizona to face a wild beast of an Arizona team.

Tomorrow afternoon, Gonzaga heads down to Tucson, Arizona, to play the No. 3 team in the nation in the form of the big, fast and straight-out burly Arizona Wildcats. With Gonzaga ranked at No. 9, it's a nationally televised matchup of the best two basketball teams on the left side of the country and will finally give us the sort of look required to judge this thus-far dominant squad of Zags.


First off, the game is on ESPN at 2:15 pm. Set an alert or turn over the hour glass and be in front of a screen at that time or else everyone is going to make fun of you on Monday.

Secondly, this is the highest ranked regular season opponent Gonzaga has encountered since they faced no. 3 Kansas State in the 2010-2011 season. Since the 1998-99 season (the beginning of the Zags ongoing run of NCAA trips, aka the Post-Cinderella Era), Gonzaga has faced 13 top-5 opponents, winning four of those games. One of those wins was a somehow forgotten victory over then-no. 2-ranked North Carolina at Madison Square Garden in 2006 that might be one of the program's greatest accomplishments.

Thirdly, anyone else think that the Zag Kingdom was going to implode upon itself on Tuesday night? Gonzaga was actually losing to Southeastern Louisiana State by a point after 20 minutes, making for a nervous halftime inside the Kennel. The stench of upset was beginning to circulate through the building, but was quickly Febrezed by a 30-4 run by the Zags. Kyle Wiltjer had 20 points, Domantas Sabonis (spelled that correctly with no help, BTW) added 14 and the Kyle "The Friendly Canadian" Pangos had a dozen of his own, leading to a 76-57 win for the Zags. Had things not turned, that would have been an awful way to head down to Arizona.

Fourthly, Arizona is a terrifyingly talented team, but not in the sort of ways you'd expect. Like the Zags, the Wildcats have won all seven of their games. Unlike the Zags, these wins haven't been the sort of blowouts you'd expect from such a deep squad, especially considering their opponents. But wins are wins, and that's what Arizona did over Thanksgiving weekend when they won the Maui Classic with a performance that included tight wins over Kansas State and San Diego St., the latter being what I consider the third-best team out west. They've got some crazy-ass talent, especially in the form of freshman Stanley Johnson, who can jump out of the gym, but is also a grounded player who's averaging 14 points a game and getting better with each contest.

Annnnd, if you're a lazy fan who seems like Arizona is a familiar opponent, congratulations, you are correct. In fact, the last time the Zags lost was to Arizona when the Wildcats destroyed the Zags in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. And there was also this game...

Also, Mark Titus over at Grantland thinks we should start calling the tandem of eastern European big men of Sabonis and Karnokwsi "The Low Bloc." I think we should help him make that a reality.

THRILLER IN CHENEY
If you haven't seen it yet, the biggest excitement in the region's college hoops came in a crosstown women's hoops rivalry game in Cheney. Gonzaga edged the Eagles of Eastern Washington on this crazy, amazing shot.

EAGLES SHOOTING THE LIGHTS OUT
You should really consider getting yourself out to Cheney, speaking of, when you get a chance. Eastern's men's team is a legit mid-major program this year that's currently the fourth best shooting team in all the nation. The third best shooting team? Gonzaga, which means that two of the top four shooting teams reside in Spokane County. The Eagles are coming off a shocking win AT INDIANA. Yes, that Indiana and they play a fun style of basketball you should be watching.

The only problem there is that the Eagles are on the road for almost the entire month. They head to Seattle University tomorrow to try to better their record to 7-1, which is already the team's best start in 37 years. Then it's off for road games sure to test their mettle at Cal, Washington, Sam Houston State and San Francisco.

On Sunday, the Eagles beat Eastern Oregon thanks to 38 points from Austalian big man Venky Jois, who has the most fun-to-say name in all of college basketball.

ON THE PALOUSE
On Wednesday night, the Vandals of Idaho marched the eight miles over to Pullman and made relatively easy work of a struggling Washington State team, 77-71. Good one for the Vandals, but a scary sign of what's to come in Ernie Kent's first year at the helm down in Pullman.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

MONDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: Zags take New York, Cougs "coug" Apple Cup

Posted By on Mon, Dec 1, 2014 at 12:05 PM


The long Thanksgiving weekend offered ample opportunity to overstuff ourselves on sports action both local and national, and we did both. If you didn't have the chance to do the same, Monday Morning Placekicker will help you get up to speed in a hurry. Let's do this. 

APPLE CUP BEATDOWN
Granted, I'm a newbie to the region, so I lack the historic perspective many readers will undoubtedly hold about the Apple Cup rivalry between UW and WSU. But I have a set of eyes and ears and a decent cable hookup, so I saw enough on Saturday night to know that the rivalry is looking pretty one-sided. 

The score ended up 31-13, but it didn't look that close. UW jumped out to a quick lead and pulled away from there. The Huskies slapped the Cougs around and laughed all the way out of town, inspiring Cougs coach Mike Leach to shitcan his defensive coordinator and a linebackers coach on Sunday. That's understandable given some of the huge numbers the Cougars' D has allowed all season, but considering Leach's calling card is that of a mad offensive genius, scoring 13 total points long after the game has been decided doesn't look good. 

The Apple Cup game could have been different. Frigid temps should have benefitted the Palouse gang against the UW west-siders, but instead the crowd stayed home in droves. The Senior Day festivities could have inspired the team, but instead Leach's insistence on always going for it on 4th down — and rarely making it — bit them on the ass. Quarterback Luke Falk didn't look good after a strong first few games, although we still think he'll be a good one going into next year

The only thing that went right for WSU during the Apple Cup was the well-deserved enshrinement of Spokane native and Gonzaga Prep grad Steve Gleason into the Washington State Athletic Hall of Fame.  
Steve Gleason being honored at halftime of the 2014 Apple Cup. - WSU ATHLETICS
  • WSU Athletics
  • Steve Gleason being honored at halftime of the 2014 Apple Cup.

The best news for Cougar fans coming out of the weekend was that at least they're not Idaho; the Vandals finished up a 1-10 season with another blowout loss

SEAHAWKS MOVING UP 
No doubt most of you are aware by now that the Seahawks went to San Francisco and crushed the division rival 49ers 19-3. Even better, the division-leading Arizona Cardinals lost again, leaving the Seahawks just one game out of first place with four to play, including games against both the Niners and the Cardinals. It's suddenly looking pretty good for Seattle to get at least one home game in the playoffs. 

ZAGS WIN A TITLE
The Gonzaga men's team went to New York City for Thanksgiving, and all they got was a lousy championship banner from the NIT Season Tip-Off tourney at Madison Square Garden. They were challenged by Georgia and St. John's at times, but the Zags cruised, Kevin Pangos was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, and the only player with any reason to be bummed at all is freshman guard Josh Perkins, who took a serious shot to the chompers and ended up with a broken jaw the night before Thanksgiving. Ain't that a kick in the head? He's out for a few weeks most likely. 

Here's what it looked like: 

In the new polls out today, Gonzaga is No. 9 in the AP Top 25 poll, and No. 8 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. 

SOUNDERS OUT
Seattle's soccer team saw its season come to an end at the hands of the LA Galaxy and retiring superhero Landon Donovan. And because it's soccer, the Sounders were actually eliminated after a game they won. This makes me very happy other sports don't use aggregate scoring. You go to a game in Seattle, you fill a stadium and rage all night, you beat a rival by a goal — and they celebrate on your field. It ain't right. (And you can save the "you just don't get it" bullshit, soccer fans). 

BEST WIN OF THE WEEKEND
While absolutely no one was paying any attention. WSU's women's hoops team went down to Puerto Rico and beat the then-No. 8 team in the country, Maryland, on Saturday at the San Juan Shootout. Kudos, ladies!
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Monday, November 24, 2014

MONDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: Zag Machine rolls to Top 10, Seahawks are back and it's Apple Cup week

Posted By on Mon, Nov 24, 2014 at 12:07 PM

20141101_GUMensBballvTRU-RPS-7938.jpg
Happy Thanksgiving/Apple Cup week, during which, as your trusted semi-responsible sports columnist, I recommend you take in an amount of sporting events that may on the surface seem unhealthy. It's your right as an American.

But first, let's get caught up on the weekend that was.

THE ZAG MACHINE IS WELL-OILED
There have been a number of Gonzaga basketball teams over the years that have had us saying, "This is the best group of Zags ever." And people are saying that again this year. But what feels discernibly different about this team in comparison to some other great Gonzaga squads is the way in which the team has won its first four games. They haven't just won, but rather dismantled, embarrassed and walked away with their opponents' sense of humanity in each of their victories.

That's why the powers that be voted them the #8 team in the country (or #10 if you're into the AP poll).

Saturday night's game against Division II St. Thomas Aquinas was no exception. The much, much bigger Zags rolled over the Spartans, doing anything they wanted with the ball, including letting under-appreciated Angel Nunez show his stuff on the way to 24 points and 11 rebounds as Gonzaga rolled to a 109-55 victory.

A remarkable stat: Gonzaga has won three of their first four games by
45 points or more. That number is almost pornographic. Their other win, over a then 22-ranked SMU, could have been a 25-or-more victory had they not emptied the bench with four minutes left.

The Zags head to New York City this week for a matchup on Wednesday against Georgia, who might give GU its first test of the season. Or, more likely if the Zags keep shooting (56%) and passing (third in the nation in assists) like they have been, it won't be a test at all. That game tips at 6:30 pm on ESPN2.

GONZAGA WOMEN ALSO KILLING IT
Don't sleep on the women's squad over at Gonzaga. They've been similarly dominant in the early days of the season and now sit at 3-0, good for a #24 national ranking.

The Bulldog women headed to Montana State on Friday night and made quick work of the Bobcats, jumping out to a 20-2 lead in the first five minutes of the game, which pretty much shut the door on the game. They went on to win 89-60, thanks to a career-high 16 points from Shelby Cheslek.

COUGARS THROW THE BALL A LOT, LOSE
The Cougs didn't "Coug It" on Saturday down at Arizona State, even if they were leading 21-7 at one point.

There needs to be another term for Cougar football that describes the phenomenon of racking up mathematically outrageous statistics in a game your team eventually loses. First it was Connor Halliday's NCAA record yards in a Hindenberg-like loss to Cal earlier in the season, and then on Saturday, it was his replacement Luke Falk who was in that dubious spot. Falk tossed for 601 yards in what turned out to be a 52-31 loss.

How do you throw for that many yards and lose the game? Well, you also throw four interceptions and fumble once.

Still, Falk has been looking good, all things considered. Check out this week's Inlander for a profile of the redshirt freshman gunslinger. The Cougars and Huskies meet in the Apple Cup on Saturday night. The game is at 7:30 pm down in Pullman.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Inside the Kennel Club: Show us your game day get-up

Posted By on Thu, Nov 20, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Inlander contributors and Gonzaga seniors Franny Wright and Jenna Mulligan will be taking you inside the Kennel Club, the Zag's renowned student section in this occasional series to give you some insight as to what makes these kids amongst the rowdiest in all of college hoops.

Rather than cheer as the typical bright red sea of jumping fans, the student section at last night's insane 94-42 win over Saint Joseph's wanted to blend in. Many Zags tossed some camouflage over their Kennel Club shirts to "hunt the Hawks," while others chose outfits that would stick out a little more for those ESPN cameras. It wasn't just these getups that distracted St. Joe's to the point that they only scored 10 points in the first half, but it might have helped.

CAIT ROSELLINI, SENIOR
"The G.I. Fairy"
Tonight we are hunting, so we're coming out in camo to support the Zags in taking down the Hawks!
5mWIR.jpeg

RYAN GROSCOST, FRESHMEN
"A Bunny of a Different Color"
I saw this pink bunny costume on Amazon, and just knew I needed it for games.
s0uRC.jpeg

BEN ZIMNY, JUNIOR
"The Big Bush"
I figured I might as well go all out for camo night and be a bush.
GoIl5.jpeg

BO VOLWILER, FRESHMEN
"The Bo-Nanner"
Well, I just had this banana suit lying around, and I combined it with my friend here's shirt!
alILy.jpeg

MARIE MARSHALL, SENIOR
"The Job Hunter"
Hunting the hawks is a great excuse to pull out all of my camo, and this sign probably can't hurt either.
tvRaS.jpeg

The Zags finish up their four-game opening home stand on Saturday night against St. Thomas Aquinas, a Division II school from New York. They head to Madison Square Garden after that for a Thanksgiving Eve matchup against Georgia in the NIT Season Tip-Off. That game is at 6:30 pm on ESPN2.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Zags beat up on SMU, Kevin Pangos is not human, a Kennel Clubber's miracle shot

Posted By on Tue, Nov 18, 2014 at 12:43 PM

RYAN SULLIVAN
  • Ryan Sullivan
Last night was supposed to be the night we saw what Gonzaga's men's basketball program was really like. That merciless thumping of Sacramento State didn't really give us any insight, we were told.

Well, consider last night's destruction of No. 22-ranked SMU your official introduction to the 2014-2015 Gonzaga Bulldogs, a team so deep in talent that you need water wings just to approach their bench. The final score of 72-56 doesn't do the game justice. When Coach Mark Few unleashed the walk-ons with a couple minutes left, the Zags were up 71-47.

With a national television audience that arrived late to the telecast due to a big overtime upset in women's hoops, the Zags let the nation know just how dangerous they're going to be, as ESPN's Fran Fraschilla realized.
Here are a few more observations from the game.

Pangos is back, eh!
He never left, but that nagging toe injury made him a shadow of his former self at the tail end of last season. Well, last night he had the Kennel wound up to a frenzy. At one point, Kevin Pangos nailed a three, then about five seconds later dove on the floor to cause a turnover. Somewhere in there I think I saw him save a baby from a burning building and then text a cure for ebola to the CDC. It was hard to tell amidst the mania.

RYAN SULLIVAN
  • Ryan Sullivan
He finished with 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds in a performance that seemed even bigger than those numbers. In his senior campaign, it's nice to see the friendly Canadian off to a fiery start.

Also, his three-pointers last night were half the reason everyone in attendance got free diarrhea Taco Bell tacos!

Sabonis is better than his beard suggests!
Despite sporting a beard that doesn't quite live up to the established standards of the Pacific Northwest yet is completely appropriate in the discotheques of his native Lithuania, Domantas Sabonis is going to be Gonzaga's next mega star. Evidence to the right. 

The freshman came off the bench to score 13 points and snag nine rebounds in just 20 minutes of play. He made some silly fouls, as freshman are wont to do, but this dude is the real deal.

Kennel Club costume report
What's with the guys in banana suits? There were 10 of them throughout the student section last night.

Also entertaining was the dude dressed as the pope, a guy in a shorty shorts highway patrol uniform and a group of students who arrived in shirts, ties and dark sunglasses, only to remove said shirts to reveal that their painted chests spelled GONZAGA. Sneak attack!

Not entertaining was the kid in the Native American headdress. Look, dude, we've established that isn't a cool thing to do some time ago. Also, no one behind you can see.

The craziest shot of the game was not part of the game
At halftime, three Gonzaga students came out on the court to try their hand at a half-court shot in the hopes of winning $500. The very first contestant let it rip, and then this happened.


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