March 6, 2000
By ROB GLOSTER
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Basketball fans around the nation will be getting another chance to properly pronounce Gonzaga.
Casey Calvary scored 28 points as Gonzaga, which came within a win of the Final Four last season, earned an automatic NCAA tournament berth by defeating Pepperdine 69-65 in overtime Monday night in the West Coast Conference championship game.
Ryan Floyd added 14 points and Richie Frahm had seven of his 12 points in overtime as Gonzaga (24-8) won the conference tournament for the second straight season.
"I'm just happy to be back at the Dance," Gonzaga's Matt Santangelo said, referring to the NCAA tournament. "It's just nice to come down and get it out of the committee's control and do it ourselves."
Gonzaga scored the first eight points of overtime, capping that run with a 3-pointer by Frahm, and then held off Pepperdine. Tezale Archie had a chance to tie the game with 4 seconds remaining, but missed a 3-pointer, and Floyd added a late free throw.
Craig Lewis had 17 points for Pepperdine (24-8), which still hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Archie added 12 points for the Waves, who won the WCC's regular-season title.
Gonzaga stormed into national prominence last year by defeating Minnesota, Stanford and Florida in the NCAA tournament, losing by five points to eventual champion Connecticut in a regional final.
The Zags spent much of their time during last year's NCAA tournament trying to educate reporters and fans that their school name is pronounced "Gon-ZA-guh" instead of "Gon-ZAH-guh."
Calvary said he expects the same process this season.
"People will never quite figure out how to pronounce it, and that's fine
with us," he said. "We play better when we're the underdog."
Trailing by four points at halftime, Pepperdine pulled within 51-50 on a basket by Craig Lewis to complete a 6-0 run with 12:39 remaining. The Waves trailed 56-54 with 5 1/2 minutes left when Nick Sheppard missed a dunk that would have tied the game.
Calvary responded with a follow shot to make it 58-54, but Pepperdine's Brandon Armstrong rebounded his own miss and scored on a layup with 1:40 left.
Sheppard finally pulled Pepperdine into a tie on a follow shot with 43 seconds left, and Gonzaga lost the ball under the basket on its next possession. But, after running the clock down, Archie missed a running jumper with 3 seconds left for Pepperdine and the game went into overtime.
The game marked the first time in the 14-year history of the WCC tournament that the No. 1 (Pepperdine) and No. 2 (Gonzaga) seeds met in the championship game.
Gonzaga was playing its second straight game without guard Mike Nilson, voted the WCC's top defensive player this season. Nilson ruptured his right Achilles tendon earlier in the tournament, and watched the championship game from the bench in street clothes. His teammates played Monday with Nilson's No. 25 written on their sneakers.
Pepperdine took an early 14-13 lead Monday night, but Gonzaga responded with eight straight points and never trailed the rest of the first half. The Zags, also known as the Bulldogs, built their lead to as many as 13 points in the first half and held a 38-34 lead at halftime.
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