Observations: Zags survive on ‘The Late Show’ at the buzzer, but WSU loses at the buzzer


UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while fighting frostbite because the portable heater kicks off just when the room gets warm.

—For those tucked between the covers at 11 p.m. Wednesday night when The Basketball Late Show tipped off, you missed a whistlefest between No. 1 Gonzaga and 6-and-2 Washington.

Gonzaga, or Gorgonzola, as Nadine likes to call the Zags, survived by the width of a Necco Wafer, 81-79. It took an eight-foot turn-around jumper at 0:00.6 (that’s six-tenths of a second) by Rui Hachimura to keep the Zags unsullied.

It was survival of the fittest for Washington. All three of the Huskies front-line players had four fouls with 14 1/2 minutes left and two fouled out. But like fleas on a sled dog, Gonzaga couldn’t shake off the Huskies. The difference was that Gonzaga was 19 for 19 from the foul line and Washington couldn’t handle the Japanese-born Hachimura. He was too big, too strong and too good on his way to 26 points.

And not only were the Zags perfect at the foul line, they are perfect in the classroom.

While one has to admire the protracted success at Gonzaga by coach Mark Few, more admiration should be directed to the performance of his players in the classroom. His teams have a 100 per cent graduation rate.

QUOTE: From former Auburn and NBA star Charles Barkley on his academics: “All I know is as long as I led the Southeastern Conference in scoring, my grades would be fine. Just 20 points and 10 rebounds is all it took.” (Barkley fits in anywhere — Supreme Court, court jester, Courtyard by Marriott, basketball court.)

—What a story it would have been and still it is heart-lifting over what Wright State senior guard Skyelea Potter almost did Wednesday night.

But Miami’s Isaiah Coleman-Lands spoiled the script by burying a three-point shot as the horn went off, giving the RedHawks a 65-62 victory over WSU at the Nutter Center, Miami’s first road win this season.

Potter, though, was the story. His mother died of a heart attack early this week and Potter returned from her funeral in Bowling Green, Ky., put on his uniform, came off the bench and scored 17 points.

He hit six straight points to give WSU a 55-51 lead with 4 1/2 minutes left. But Miami outmuscled and outhustled the Raiders, especially on the offensive backboards, to outscore WSU 14-7 down the stretch. Miami had 13 offensive rebounds to six for Wright State, now sagging at 4-and-5 after its first home defeat.

—QUOTE: From former coach Abe Lemons after his star player scored one point: “You did great, son. You scored one more point than a dead man.” (He scored one more point than I did in my first high school game.)

—When I tuned in to the Ohio State-Illinois game, the Buckeyes led 30-20 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the half.

What a near-jinx I was. I watched the Buckeyes go nearly the rest of the half without scoring a basket. Illinois went on a 17-2 run to grab 37-32 lead before OSU scored the first basket I saw them make with 57 second left in the half.

Ohio State put the pieces back together in the second half at Champaign-Urbana and scored a 77-67 Big Ten victory.

—QUOTE: From former UNLV and Long Beach State coach Jerry Tarkanian: “The more your players have to think on the basketball court, the slower their feet get.” (Tarkanian said this while chewing a towel.)

—During a timeout late in the first half of the Dayton-Detroit Mercy game at UD Arena, Mercy coach Mike Davis, upset because of the foul imbalance, told one of the officials, “You’ve called 10 fouls on us and only four on them.” Said the official with a calm demeanor, “Then quit fouling.”

QUOTE: From former North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano: “I asked a ref if he could give me a technical foul for thinking bad things about him. He said, ‘Of course not.’ I said, ‘Well, I think you stink.’ And he gave ‘em a technical. You can’t trust ‘em.” (Valvano, who died young from cancer, went to his grave still looking for somebody to hug after his team won the NCAA championship game in 1983 and at the time even a ref would have sufficed.)

—It was obvious Wednesday night that Duke thought its opponent in Cameron Indoor, the University of Hartford, was just a bunch of retired insurance salesmen. After all, the Hawks, who play in the mid-major America East Conference, came to Durham, N.C. with a 3-and-6 record. They had lost to Utah Valley State, Iona and Sacred Heart.

Well, the Mighty Dukies led by only 36-31 with 18 1/2 minutes left. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called time out and said something like, “Are you serious?” Or something like that.

Duke did get serious and won, 84-54. R.J. Barrett scored 27 and snagged 15 rebounds while barely interested Zion Williamson scored 18.

QUOTE: From former Marquette and Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus on playing a talented opponent: “They have all those talented McDonald’s All-Americans and we have five guys on our team who don’t even have a McDonald’s in their hometowns.” (University of Hartford coach John Gallagher was saying the same thing about Duke and his team.)

—The newest NHL franchise expansion team will be in Seattle and it needs a nickname. A funny suggestion: How about the Seattle Starpucks? For the non-coffee drinkers, the Starbucks international headquarters is in Seattle. And to give credit, one of my favorite sports journalists, Mike Downey, came up with it.

—With the departure of LeBron James, it was expected that the Cleveland Cadavers would be the worst team in the NBA. And they are bad, almost putrid, but right now they are not the worst.

There are, believe it or not, three teams, as of this writing, with worse records than Cleveland’s 5-and-18. The Atlanta Hawks are 5-and-20, the Chicago Bulls are 5-and-20 and the Phoenix Suns are 4-and-20. Is that called competitive imbalance in the NBA?

—QUOTE: From former college coach George Raveling: “Nobody falls asleep at our games because they are afraid they might get hit with one of our passes.”

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