Despite Tough Play, Men's Basketball Falls To No. 5 Arizona
Nov. 29, 2000
Gonzaga University's men's basketball team, which enjoyed great succes last March with a pair of NCCA Tournament victories on Lute Olson Court at McKale Center, saw the streak snapped Wednesday when Olson's fifth-ranked University of Arizona Wildcats pulled away late for a 101-87 non-conference victory.
The Bulldogs, considered by many to be huge underdogs coming into the contest because of their youth and inexperience, gave a gutsy performance that saw the Bulldogs lead by as many as 5 points in the second half after trailing by 9 at halftime.
But when Casey Calvary picked up his fourth foul with 10:15 to play, go to the bench and later return only to foul out with 5:31 remaining and the score knotted at 80, the Bulldgos faced an uphill battle with one of the main cogs out.
Eugene Edgerson, who scored all 8 of his points at the free line line on an 8-for-8 night, made both free throws after Calvary's fifth foul for an 82-80 advantage. Alex Hernandez made a tough layin to bring the Bulldogs even with 5:08 remaining and the Wildcats responded with a 9-0 run in the next 2:50 for a 91-82 lead. The run was started by a 15-foot jumper by Luke Walton, sophomore son of former NBA and UCLA standout Bill Walton, and sealed with 7 straight points by Gilbert Arenas.
Gonzaga, down 49-40 at halftime, finally caught the Wildcats at 54-54 with 15:19 to play as freshman guard Blake Stepp, who poured in a career-high 21 points, fired in back-to-back 3-point bombs. Stepp was 6-of-10 from beyond the arc in the game, including 4-for-8 in the second half.
The Bulldogs grabbed their first lead of the night with 14:45 remaining when Dan Dickau, attempting a lob pass underneath from outside the 3-point arc on the right wing, fired a two-handed, over the head pass that, to the surprise and awe of all 14,514 in attendance, found nothing but net for an amazing 3-pointer. That broke the 54-54 tie.
After being tied at 67, the Bulldogs forged their first 5-point lead when Cory Violette got a tipin off a missed Stepp free throw, Dickau connected on another "legitimate" trey and the Bulldogs were ahead 74-69. The teams then traded a pair of free throws each for a 76-71 Gonaga lead with 7:42 to go. But the ensuing turn of events that sent Calvary to the bench followed and the Bulldogs got just Stepp's final 3-pointer as their lone field goal in the last 5:08 following Hernandez's layin for the 82-82 deadlock.
Arizona, meanwhile, built the final 14-point margin from the line, hitting seven straight free throws and 8 of their final 10. Jason Gardner's slam dunk at the buzzer put the exclamation point on the victory.
"We won't beat them without Casey in the game for significant minutes," said a dejected, but yet upbeat, head coach Mark Few. "We tell the players they have to control what you can. You can't control officiating, or the crowd or the noise. We had to play major minutes without Casey, and when he was in there he was one of the best players on the floor."
Arizona's game plan early was to push the ball inside to Michael Wright, who scored 9 of Arizona's first 12 points on his way to 16 first-half points and a game-high 25. He was one of five Wildcats in double figures as Richard Jefferson scored 20 and Arenas came off the bench for 21.
"Wright was tough to guard. We fronted him, but we didn't get enough pressure on the ball. He did a good job of sealing us off," Few said.
Few, who at one stretch in the game had four players on the court who weren't even in the program a year ago including a pair of true freshman, was nonetheless pleased with the effort of the Bulldogs.
"We learned their character is farther along then even I thought it was," Few said of the battle. "We staved off some rallies. We won't go into another venue like this. I thought we dealt with some adversity and tried to power through it."
The Bulldogs, who return home to meet another Pacific-10 Conference foe Saturday when the University of Washington visits The Kennel, got a career-high 21 points from Stepp, a career-high 20 from Dickau, 16 from Calvary and a career-high 14 points from Mark Spink. Gonzaga won the battle of the boards 35-32, but hit just 14-of-26 free throws while Arizona was connecting on 34-of-39 from the stripe.
The 101 points by the Wildcats was the first time Gonzaga had allowed triple digits since a 106-98 overtime loss at the University of San Francisco on Jan. 14, 1995. Wednesday also snapped a streak of 135 games in which the Bulldogs had held opponents to less than 90 points. The last time an opponent had scored 90 was Washington State University in a 92-73 win in the 1996 National Invitational Tournament first round in Pullman.
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