Cougs paintless, can't connect deep vs. Zags

SPOKANE -- Back in the '80s, courtesy of Wendy's, the question du jour was "Where's the beef?" To those who witnessed Gonzaga's 67-53 domination of Washington State on Thursday, there was no question where the beef was. It was wrapped in a Gonzaga uniform worn by 6-9, 269-pound J.P. Batista. He and his mates so dominated down low that the most pressing query of the night was whether the Cougs would ever set foot in the paint.

Where's the paint?

Doesn't quite sound like the makings of a great fast-food ad campaign, but it sure did the trick for the Gonzaga faithful still reeling from that tough loss Sunday at Washington.

Gonzaga clogged the middle and dominated the glass, forcing the Cougars to shoot mostly from long distance. And the result wasn't pretty. The Cougars shot 37 percent overall and 33 percent on 7 of 21 shooting from three-point land.

Clearly, the youngsters in crimson -- who include just one senior in the ranks -- have some growing to do before they match the hyperbole foisted before the game by GU coach Mark Few. He said the Cougs were playing this season like an NCAA tournament team.

The Zags, ranked No. 9 in the nation and carrying a 27-game home win streak into the contest, were without two of their starters (Errol Knight and Derek Raivio) -- a fact that had some people thinking the Cougars (now 4-2) might pull off the upset.

Not to be. Except for the opening minute, Gonzaga never trailed. And while the Cougars made a couple of nice runs -- one in each half -- that narrowed big Bulldog leads back down to seven, their inability to mount any kind of inside game proved debilitating.

Everybody's All-American, Adam Morrison, led all scorers with 25 points on the night, but it was Batista, a senior from Brazil, who served notice that the paint belonged to him. He scored 23 points, hitting 9 of 11 field goals, and pulled down nine of his team's 32 rebounds. He also contributed a steal.

Cougar center Chris Henry, who racked up more fouls than points and rebounds combined, told the Associated Press afterward that he's "never played against anyone so strong" as Batista.

The Zags held a 21-8 reboound advantage at halftime.

There were bright spots for the Cougars. They played their usual tenacious defense, forcing the Zags into 18 turnovers and their second-lowest scoring total this season.

Center Robbie Cowgill was the Cougars' leading scorer, with 14, followed by guard Josh Akognon with 13 -- nine of them coming from beyond the arc.

The Cougars travel to San Diego State on Saturday and then come back to Pullman for a game with Portland on Dec. 17. The conclude non-conference play in Seattle against Utah on Dec. 22. The Pac-10 season opens in Spokane Dec. 29 against Arizona and Dec. 31 in Pullman vs. Arizona State.

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