Bulldogs Dump Valpo, 76-49, In NCAA First Round
By TIM KORTE
SEATTLE (AP) - It was a big night for the Bench Mob from Gonzaga.
Ronny Turiaf scored 14 of his 15 points in the second half, and Cory Violette added 13 points and 10 rebounds to help the second-seeded Bulldogs beat Valparaiso 76-49 Thursday night in the first round.
Blake Stepp added 13 points and nine assists, but struggled through a 2-for-11 shooting performance.
After he sat down in the interview room, Stepp let out a low whistle when he glanced at his statistics. He muttered "1-for-9" to Violette while pointing to the sheet.
Afterward, Stepp went on to the KeyArena court in his sweats and practiced his shot as cleaning crews went to work.
"It was as bad a night shooting as I've ever had," Stepp said. "But we've got so many guys who can score that it doesn't matter if I'm struggling."
That's where the Bench Mob came in.
Freshmen Adam Morrison, with 10 points, and Sean Mallon, who added six, kept the Bulldogs steady in the first half, when Stepp shot 0-for-6 and Turiaf scored only one point after going to the bench with two fouls.
"That's what we call ourselves," Mallon said. "We pride ourselves on stepping up the way we did tonight. That's our job."
The freshmen always give everything they have on the court.
"You're only going to come in for a short spurt, so we figure you might as well go nuts because you're going to come out pretty soon," Morrison said. "It's not any knock on you as a player. It's just the way we do things."
The Zags (28-2) won their 21st straight contest and advanced to the second round against 10th-seeded Nevada (24-8), which beat No. 7 Michigan State in the earlier game of the St. Louis Regional.
The Bulldogs started slowly - perhaps feeling the weight of the school's highest seeding in seven NCAA tournaments - but they finished with a flourish. Gonzaga ended the night with a 24-8 surge over the final 10 minutes.
"We don't really care about the seeding. We're just trying to play hard," Turiaf said. "We just try to look at ourselves and don't worry about the seed we've got. We're focused on ourselves and what we can do, who we are."
Joaquim Gomes had 13 points and eight rebounds while Jimmie Miles added 12 points for 15th-seeded Valparaiso (18-13), the only Indiana school in the tournament. Valpo shot 28 percent and trailed by double digits most of the night.
"We did a nice job out there," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "Our zone was great tonight but it's been good all year. The strength of this team is it's got great versatility."
NBA career assists and steals leader John Stockton, whose Gonzaga jersey was retired this season, was in the crowd to support the Zags.
The devoted Kennel Club fans who brought their red and blue T-shirts on the five-hour drive from Spokane cheered when the Bulldogs broke the game open with a 12-2 burst midway through the second half.
Turiaf scored twice and hit a pair of free throws, while Violette was in place for a putback as Gonzaga methodically pulled away.
The Bulldogs finally flexed their considerable muscles near the 5-minute mark, with Stepp blowing past his defender for an easy layup, followed by rim-clattering dunks from Turiaf and Violette.
"Their inside game is really dominant," Valpo's Kenny Harris said. "They get position. They can take it off the dribble. They can do a lot of things."
The Zags slowly wore down the Crusaders, champions of the Mid-Continent Conference. It was enough to put the Bulldogs into the second round for the fifth time in six years.
Homer Drew was back on the NCAA sidelines, where he led the Crusaders to five straight tournaments from 1996-00 and a memorable trip to the round of 16 in 1998 - highlighted by upsets of Mississippi and Florida.
Drew returned after a one-year retirement to handle the team after his son,
Scott, became coach at Baylor.
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03/19/2018 - MBB Faces Florida State in Sweet 16
03/17/2018 - NCAA West Regional Ticket Information
03/17/2018 - Gonzaga beats Ohio State 90-84 for Sweet 16 return
03/16/2018 - MBB Meets Ohio State in Second Round