Zags Advance to Second Round of NCAA Tournament
March 16, 2006
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Adam Morrison was teased, taunted and frustrated. So when Gonzaga finally grabbed control for good against Xavier, he let all that emotion out by slamming the ball against his head - three times.
With that out of system, he calmly made two free throws to seal Gonzaga's 79-75 come-from-behind win over Xavier on Thursday nignt in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Gonzaga will meet Indiana, an 87-83 come-frompbehind winner over San Diego State in Thursday's late game, on Saturday. Gametime is approximately 5:10 p.m. PST following. Boston College and Montana meet in Saturday's first game at 3:40 p.m. from the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, with the Gonzaga-Indiana matchup scheduled for 30 minutes following.
"That's Adam. That's been Adam for a long time," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "When he's out there, special things happen and intense things happen. It's vintage Adam."
The Bulldogs' mustachioed, mop-topped star scored seven of his 35 points in the final two minutes and Gonzaga rallied to advance in the Oakland Regional. He made the go-ahead shot on a 3-pointer with 1:58 left as third-seeded Gonzaga finally overcame the No. 14-seed Musketeers after falling behind by nine early in the second half.
"I had the rhythm going into it and it felt good. I was going to take that shot regardless and it went in," said Morrison, the top scorer in Division I.
Morrison was 11-for-21 from the floor and had four assists. J.P. Batista added 18 points and eight rebounds for the Zags (28-3), who won their 19th in a row and play the winner of Indiana-San Diego State.
A magical run of four wins in four days of the Atlantic 10 tournament got Xavier (21-11) into the national field, and that stellar play carried over into the first round of the NCAA.
But the Musketeers ran out of gas at the end against Gonzaga. They couldn't take advantage of Gonzaga's foul troubles and were just 9-for-15 from the line in the second half.
"A lot of people had us not making it here or the NIT. Winning four games in four days was a great accomplishment for us," said Justin Doellman, who scored 10 for Xavier. "For the younger guys here it gives them confidence going into next year."
Stanley Burrell led Xavier with 22 points. Justin Cage scored 16, Josh Duncan had 11 points and Johnny Wolf scored 10 for Xavier, which played the postseason without leading scorer Brian Thornton, who broke his ankle last month.
As Xavier's top player sat behind the bench with crutches at his side, his teammates couldn't stop Morrison.
"You're not going shut a person like that out, so I just tried to make things hard for him," Cage said.
Morrison, taunted throughout the game by Xavier fans for his retro look and slight 'stache, didn't have a lot of help from his teammates, two of whom fouled out. He and Batista were the only Zags to score in double figures, but they were enough for Gonzaga to extend its eighth straight tournament appearance.
"We have a saying at Gonzaga - just keep sawing wood. And that's what we kept doing," Morrison said.
Morrison clinched it with his two free throws with 19 seconds left after pulling down a defensive rebound and getting fouled. The play wasn't anything spectacular, but the highlight of the game may have been Morrison's reaction.
While screaming something at no one in particular, he slammed the ball into his forehead.
"You know I'm not the greatest rebounder on this team so I was pretty happy with myself," Morrison said.
Morrison said there was some trash talking during the game, but wouldn't say specifically what was said. He said he had a nice heart-to-heart with Burrell at the end.
After Xavier made three straight 3-pointers to break a 44-all tie early in the second half, the Bulldogs kept the lead within single digits. Morrison made a 3 to cut it to 59-54 with just under 9 minutes left, then after a free throw by Xavier, Erroll Knight scored on a layup and followed it with a 3-pointer to get Gonzaga within 61-59.
The Musketeers continued to hang onto the lead, although barely at times, until Batista put back Morrison's missed free throw to cut it to 71-69. Then after Batista intercepted a pass in the lane, Morrison hit a 3-pointer with 1:58 left to put Gonzaga ahead for the first time in the half.
Batista was playing with a bruised thigh and sprained knee left over from the West Coast Conference tournament semifinals.
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