No. 9 Gonzaga Holds Off Idaho 69-60
Nov. 18, 2005
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - With a loaded field in the Maui Invitational looming next week, No. 9 Gonzaga could be excused for looking past its season opener with Idaho.
But Adam Morrison insisted the Bulldogs gave their rival plenty of respect in a 69-60 victory Friday night.
"Idaho is better than people think," said Morrison, who was held to 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting.
He said many highly ranked teams struggle in their season openers.
"It's always tough," Morrison said.
And about to get tougher, as Gonzaga and host Chaminade are the only teams in the Maui field that have not won a national title. Gonzaga plays No. 24 Maryland on Monday.
"I feel we are the underdogs," Morrison said of the tournament in Hawaii.
Idaho was definitely the underdog Friday. The Vandals hadn't beaten the Bulldogs since 1998, and figured to be rebuilding after an 8-22 season.
But the Vandals led 34-33 at halftime, and Gonzaga could not relax until J.P. Batista made three consecutive short baskets for a 65-59 lead with 2:08 left.
"Coach Few teaches us to attack the zone inside," said Batista, who led all scorers with 23 points, on 10-of-13 shooting, and added nine rebounds. "That's why I'm here."
Batista was relieved to get the first game of the season out of the way before Maui.
"We're still in the growing process," Batista said.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few said it took most of the game for his team to become patient with its shooting and try to work the ball inside. Gonzaga missed its first nine 3-point attempts, and shot only 4-of-19 from long range. They still shot 50 percent for the game, outscoring Idaho 38-18 in the paint.
"We were shooting ourselves in the foot in the first half, shooting off the first pass every time," Few said.
"Nobody was looking ahead," to Maui, he said. "We knew we were going to have a tough game."
Idaho coach Leonard Perry was disappointed that his team allowed Gonzaga to shoot 50 percent, while the Vandals shot just 36 percent. He declined to take a moral victory in a close loss to the No. 9 team in the nation.
"I am disappointed in this loss," Perry said. "Close is not good enough. This program is not going to stay in the position it finished in last year."
Gonzaga, riding the highest preseason ranking in its history, extended its home winning streak to 26, the longest in the nation. The Vandals lost their sixth straight to Gonzaga, and have not beaten the Zags since 1998.
Derek Raivio scored 15 of his 19 in the second half for Gonzaga.
Brett Ledbetter led Idaho with 14 points, and Tanoris Shepard had 11.
After missing all nine of its 3-point attempts in the first 25 minutes, and falling behind the Vandals at halftime, Gonzaga suddenly found the range and made four 3s in 4 minutes.
Raivio's first 3-pointer gave the Bulldogs a 42-38 lead with 15:14 remaining. He sank two more 3's, and Morrison added another, over the next 3 minutes for a 53-43 lead with 11:49 left.
Both defenses clamped down after that, until Shepard hit a pair of 3-pointers to cut Gonzaga's lead to 59-57 with 4:36 left.
Then Batista bulled inside for three quick baskets as Gonzaga took a 65-59 lead, and the Bulldogs were able to hang on as Idaho began to foul.
In the first half, Ledbetter made a layup and the foul shot with 1:28 left to give Idaho its first lead at 32-31, capping a 9-1 run by the Vandals.
Batista, who scored 13 in the first, hit a pair of free throws to give Gonzaga the lead. But Idaho's Shepard sank two free throws with 5 seconds left to lift the Vandals to a 34-33 halftime lead.
Former Gonzaga star Ronny Turiaf, who was drafted in the second round by the Los Angeles Lakers, sat on the Bulldogs' bench as he continued his rehabilitation from heart surgery.
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