The Spokesman-Review (Spokane) : 2019-02-11

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SPORTS MONDAY, February 11, 2019 EAGLE BECOMES A COUGAR ZAGS REWIND Gauging Gubrud GU tearing through WCC at full speed By Jim Meehan THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW The 2017 Gonzaga Bulldogs had it. The 2019 Zags definitely have it through 25 games. Basketball seasons inevitably bring ups and downs. Part of the Zags’ formula for success is they keep the downs to a minimum. They’ve obviously had stretches where defense and/or rebounding proved costly or they endured an extended offensive lull, but there hasn’t been a snoozer or no-show performance yet, whether facing a top-five opponent, a WCC challenger or a conference also-ran. That’s one of the topics in our latest Gonzaga rewind. GU fans could hit rewind for hours re-examining Saturday night’s 94-46 pasting of Saint Mary’s, which would prefer the fast-forward button. COMING UP Thursday: GU at Loyola Marymount, 8. ESPN2 TV: Dialed in About the closest Gonzaga has come to a letdown, and it’s a bit of a reach, was a workmanlike 23-point win at Portland. It’s one of the reasons why Gonzaga keeps putting up record numbers. The Zags have seven wins by at least 40 points, the most by a Division I team since Duke had eight in 2001, according to STATS. The 486-point differential during GU’s 14-game winning streak is the best by any Division I team over any 14game span in the past two decades. Talent advantages can cover up a lot of things, but the Zags have stayed on task regardless of the caliber of opponent. There haven’t been wild fluctuations in their effort or level of play. “The coaches talk everybody up, they let us know every game is going to be a battle,” senior guard Geno Crandall said. “We’re going to get everybody’s best shot. We have to come in with the same idea. It’s kind of been a theme for us, come out with an edge.” Human nature suggests that’s difficult to summon game after game. “It’s probably easier said than done,” senior guard Josh Perkins said, “but we’re GONZAGA, 3 See Melson drops in, catches up with his former teammates TYLER TJOMSLAND/ [email protected] The newest WSU Cougar, Gage Gubrud, had plenty of memorable performances when leading Eastern Washington. By Justin Reed THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW Counting down QB’s top games at EWU The second-winningest player in Gonzaga history was in attendance for the Bulldogs’ 92-62 thrashing of the San Francisco Dons on Thursday night. Former guard Silas Melson, who graduated after last season, traveled to Spokane during a hiatus in his professional basketball schedule. Melson first signed with Lavrio of the Greek Basket League in June of last year before he signed a onemonth contract with Hapoel Be’er Sheva of the Israeli Premier League in December. He called it a business decision to leave Greece after the team wasn’t successful. He was welcomed back to the sold-out Kennel with an appearance on the video boards and raucous applause, but he was more excited to see his old teammates and college program live in action. “I have been following the program still a lot, though,” he said. “I know they seem special, scary. I have been watching them every chance I get. The talent here is crazy 1. Eastern Washington at Washington State, 2016 By Theo Lawson THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW Gubrud’s five to remember Gubrud set a high bar for himself in the first start of his career. He’d win many consequential games against his Big Sky competition – and multiple FCS playoff games – but the season opener in 2016 still stands alone as Gubrud’s best feat, and it’ll certainly be a talking point in his new locker room this season. WSU would win nine games and beat Miami in the Sun Bowl that season, but on Sept. 3, the Cougars had no answer for the FCS QB-WR tandem of Gubrud and Kupp, who would account for 12 passes, 206 yards and three touchdowns. For all Gubrud accomplished through the air that day, the redshirt sophomore also rushed 14 times for 77 yards, and the play that decided EWU’s 45-42 victory came on a read-option that saw the QB fake a handoff to Antoine Custer before darting through the heart of WSU’s defense for a 30-yard touchdown. The sample size is fairly large, but most who’ve followed Gage Gubrud through his career at Eastern Washington would contend the quarterback’s finest hour with the Eagles came three years ago in his first start, against the very Washington State program he’ll be suiting up for this fall. In a 45-42 upset win at Martin Stadium, Gubrud passed for more than 470 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for more than 70 yards and adding a touchdown on the ground. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp was excellent, but Gubrud may have been even better in a game that set the stage for one of the most prolific careers by a QB in school history. Gubrud went 21-7 as EWU’s starter, was twice named a finalist for the Walter Payton Award and finished his time in Cheney with 101 all-purpose touchdowns and more than 11,000 all-purpose yards. 1. 470 yards, 5 TDs vs. Washington State, 2016 2. 11-play drive to beat UC Davis, 2017 Melson 3. 49-point second half against UC Davis, 2016 4. 322 yards, 4 TDs, 88 yards rushing vs. NAU, 2018 5. 33-of-39 passing for 435 yards, 5 TDs vs. Northern Colorado, 2016 Before Gubrud throws on the crimson and gray for the first time, we count down five of his best games in the Eagles’ red and black. GUBRUD, 3 MELSON, 3 See See SEATTLE MARINERS FIVE THINGS TO WATCH AT CAMP some time during spring training. The expectation for people around baseball and for Encarnacion was that the Mariners would trade him after acquiring him in the offseason. Sources indicated the Mariners even made their intention of flipping Encarnacion known to him. It seemed like a decent plan. With the Twins, Rays and Astros all showing interest in signing former Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz, the Mariners figured they could trade Encarnacion to one of the two teams that were unable to sign Cruz. They knew they’d have to eat a sizable portion of the $25 million owed to Encarnacion in 2019, but it seemed worth it for a By Ryan Divish SEATTLE TIMES Even if the Mariners are in the midst of a “stepback” season, the current conditions outside make it a little easier to think about warm Arizona days in the sun for spring training. With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report today in Peoria, here are five things to watch this spring: What of Encarnacion? As of these words being typed, Edwin Encarnacion is still a member of the Mariners. That could change before position players report Friday or perhaps ASSOCIATED PRESS It appears this will be Felix Hernandez’s final year with the Mariners. MARINERS, 3 See Contact Sports Editor Ralph Walter at: (509) 459-5471; fax (509) 744-5655; [email protected]

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