Observations: Big upset — yeah, Gonzaga — but UD, too

By HAL McCOY

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, wishing I had four TV sets in front of me to watch the pre-Thanksgiving basketball feast— Gonzaga-Duke, Dayton-Butler, Wright State-SMU, Cleveland Cadavers-Los Angeles LBJs.

—The earth-rattling college basketball news emanated from Hawaii, a basketball earthquake. Gonzaga beat Duke, a volcanic eruption with no lava.

Bigger news on the local front was the University of Dayton’s domination of highly-regarded Butler in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in The Bahamas. Domination? Total destruction.

The Flyers entered the eight-team tournament as one of the lowest rated participants. Butler calls that a lie after the Flyers ripped off a 69-64 upset that wasn’t that close.

The Flyers hit their first six shots to serve early notice that they were in The Bahamas for more than a walk on the beach and a swim with the dolphins. They said as they embarked for Nassau that it was a business trip and the Flyers were all business.

They scored the last seven points of the first half to construct a 37-26 lead and built the margin to 15 midway through the second half. They shot 54 per cent for the game.

Josh Cunningham, after missing the first two games with a hand injury, followed his 9-for-10 shooting in his first game against Purdue Fort Wayne by hitting 7-of-11 Wednesday for 18 points and hooking seven rebounds, a big man among men.

Jalen Crutcher led the way with 20 points. And the Flyers held Butler’s high-scoring Kamar Baldwin, averaging 23, to 11 on 5 of 17 shooting.

During the game, a TV broadcaster said, “Last year, Dayton couldn’t guard anybody. They were awful defensively. They just didn’t buy in.”

Well, the Flyers made a major purchase on this day and made a major statement. They might be better than fans thought they would be, a whole bunch better.

—QUOTE: From hockey icon Gordie Howe: “All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity.” (Wonder which one Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was speaking in his post-game locker room?)

—Wright State took a tough punch in the gut in Cancun, losing its second game in a row in Mexico, 77-76, to SMU. The Raiders led most of the way, including 39-33 at the half. And they led, 68-67, with three minutes left.

Mark Hughes hit two free throws with 10 seconds left to push WSU in front, 76-75. But SMU scored with four seconds left and Cole Gentry couldn’t get a driving layup to fall at the buzzer. And WSU fell.

Man Mountain Loudon Love led WSU with 19 points and 14 rebounds while Hughes and Gentry scored 14 and Alan Vest came off the bench to score 11. But the Raiders couldn’t stop Jamal McMurray, who scored 27, and Jimmy Witt Jr., who scored 18, including the game-winner with four seconds left.

Don’t be fooled by Wright State’s 3-3 record at this point. The Raiders will be THE major force in the Horizon League.

—QUOTE: From former NFL star Frank Gifford: “Pro football is like nuclear warfare: there are no winners, just survivors.” (At the rate NFL players are going down with injuries there may be no survivors.)

—So Duke isn’t the King. Some basketball observers said Duke could beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on a neutral site. So does that mean Gonzaga could beat the Sacramento Kings on a neutral site?

Gonzaga yanked the Superman capes off Duke Wednesday night in Maui, 89-87. The Dukes are said to have three freshmen who will go in the first round of next year’s NBA draft.

Gonzaga only has one, Japanese-born Rui Hachimura. And he took over the game in the final couple of minutes en route to 20 points and nine rebounds.

Duke led, 2-0, their only lead. Gonzaga led by as many as 14 in the first half and 16 in the second half. A Blue Devils blue streak rush tied it at 87.

Hachimura missed two shots under the basket, grabbed his own rebound and dropped it in to put Gonzaga up 89-87 with 1:15 left. Gonzaga tried to hand it over by missing four free throws, two by Hachimura with 10 second left. Brandon Clarke clanked two with 30 seconds left and Hachimura came up empty on two more with 10 seconds left.

Gonzaga then set up the Great Wall of Japan under the basket as the Zags blocked four shots in the final 46 seconds, two by
Hachimuru. Brandon Clarke swatted away R.J. Barrett’s driving attempt at the buzzer.

—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame baseball player Rogers Hornsby: “I don’t want to play golf. When I hit a ball I want someone else to chase it.” (Anybody out there going to pay to watch Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson take a walk through a pasture for $9 million? Not me.)

—The first big bucks spent this off-season by the Cincinnati Reds for pitching was not spent on acquiring outside pitching. It went to a pitcher already on the roster, closer Raisel Iglesias.

The Reds signed him to a three-year $25 million deal, which bought out his arbitration rights. And what might that mean? It means he is easier to trade.

What the Reds really should do, as they search for starting pitching, is stretch Iglesias out this spring and put him in the rotation. How important is a closer to a team that finishes last every year?

He once was a starter and started Opening Day a couple of years ago. But when the Reds traded Aroldis Chapman, Iglesias became the closer.

Like Chapman, like Iglesias. The Reds wanted Chapman to return to the rotation but he fell in love with the closer role and resisted. And Iglesias is the same way. He loves closing and that’s what he wants to do.

Whatever happened to a team telling the player what his role is instead of the player telling the team his role?

—QUOTE: From former New York Yankees outfielder Luis Polonia: “The Yankees are interested in only one thing and I don’t know what that is.” (That’s easy, Luis. M-o-n-e-y.)

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