From the Spokesman-Review:

Quiet Confidence: Gonzaga Men, Women Plan to Make Noise Despite Muted Arena Environment
Fri., Nov. 20, 2020
By Jim Meehan
(208) 659-3791

No feet stomping rhythmically on the bleachers to “Zombie Nation” minutes before tipoff. No Kennel Club members forming a tunnel for players to run through during pregame introductions.

No ear-piercing crescendo of noise from 6,000 jammed inside the McCarthey Athletic Center after a highlight-reel dunk or clutch shot in the closing seconds.

Gonzaga basketball won’t look the same at home games, with fans expected to be benched by COVID-19 safety protocols. It sure as heck won’t sound the same.

The Zags are grudgingly coming to grips with the likelihood they’ll be playing inside a muted Kennel, an eerie backdrop to one of the most anticipated seasons ever for the men’s and women’s programs.

“It was definitely different,” senior guard Jill Townsend said after FanFest last week. “That was the first time it hit me that we weren’t going to have fans.”

The empty building for Kraziness in the Kennel reminded men’s coach Mark Few of preseason scrimmages in recent years against Michigan State, Baylor and Texas. (Scrimmages and exhibition games weren’t allowed this season due to coronavirus concerns.)

“Somehow a lot of random people were sneaking into those things over the years, whether it was (in) Minneapolis or Salt Lake or Denver or Oklahoma City,” Few said. “As is the case with those, once they get out there and guys start playing, they’re all competitive by nature, the moment ends up being big enough and creating enough of a competitive challenge that guys usually step up.”

True enough, but Few was quick to add: “It’s just a shame, though, just a shame. Especially at a place like Gonzaga, with just such a tremendous home environment and such loyal and boisterous fans that love our guys unconditionally. It’s tough.”

It’s yet another challenge facing the Zags entering a season that figures to be bumpy, with COVID-19 cases rising across the country. Senior wing Corey Kispert estimated Gonzaga’s home-court advantage was worth 5 to 7 points per game.

“We’ve seen in the NBA, and we’re going to see it with college basketball. The team that has the biggest advantage has to motivate themselves and create their own energy,” he said. “It’s something we’re going to have to be good at if we want to win those big games.”
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