Dickau's Lights-out Shooting Lifts Zags Into NCAAs

March 5, 2002

AP Sports Writer

SAN DIEGO - For 30 minutes, Dan Dickau looked all too average and the automatic NCAA berth that Gonzaga has grown used to was slipping away.

Then Dickau hit a 3-pointer. And another. Then two more in a bang-bang sequence. He hit from the corner, from the wing, from way beyond the top of the key.

With the seeming ease of flipping a switch, the star point guard took over the West Coast Conference tournament championship game, leading the No. 6 Zags to a thrilling 96-90 win over Pepperdine on Monday night and priming them for what could be another wild NCAA run.

Gonzaga and its opponents have seen Dickau take control of games countless times. This one was really memorable, off the scale even by Dickau's standards.

"I'm not surprised, but we all should be," coach Mark Few admitted after Gonzaga (29-3) broke the school single-season wins record and tied another school mark with its 14th straight victory.

"You're not supposed to do some of the things he does," Few said. "I think he's magical down the stretch."

Dickau scored 19 of his 29 points during a 32-10 run that spanned 7 minutes and took the Zags from 63-56 behind to an 88-73 lead with 4:18 left.

Until the outburst, he shot poorly and had just six points. He had only two at halftime.

"I wasn't hitting too many shots early in the game and I didn't have my rhythm," said Dickau, the conference player of the year and tourney MVP. "It was a thing where I knew I had to hit one shot and bang, the basket's going to start looking bigger."

Dickau hit his first 3 with 9:25 left to tie the game at 65. He made another 2{ minutes later, then made two in a six-second span sandwiched around a Pepperdine turnover. On the last one, he was fouled and converted the four-point play for an 83-72 lead with 5:21 left.

"If we lost, I didn't want things to be where hey, I didn't play my best," Dickau said. "I figured I needed to get more assertive, more aggressive and push the action."

Forward Zach Gourde said he would have been surprised only if Dickau hadn't turned it on.

"It's almost scary because most of the guys just stand around and watch in amazement," Gourde said.

The Waves felt almost helpless.

"We had them under control," said Pepperdine forward Jimmy Miggins, who shoved Dickau out of frustration in the final minute. "Then he started getting some good looks and knocking 'em down. There's not much you can do."

Dickau and fellow guard Blake Stepp, who had two 3-pointers and 10 points in the big run, were hitting from well beyond the arc.

"There's only so much you can do when guys are shooting from that far behind the line," Pepperdine coach Paul Westphal said.

Dickau even put up an airball 3-point attempt, which drew mild razzing from Waves fans.

But Gonzaga fans got in the last dig, chanting "N-I-T! N-I-T!" in the closing seconds. Pepperdine (22-8), which shared the regular-season tournament title with Gonzaga, must wait until Sunday to see if it will get its second NCAA berth in three seasons.

The Zags already were a lock for their fourth straight NCAA appearance, but knew that winning the conference tourney and automatic berth would translate into a higher seed.

When the little school from Spokane reached the NCAA regionals the past three seasons, it did so seeded 10th, 10th and 12th.

This year, Gonzaga thinks it could get as high as a No. 3 seed.

The previous school record for victories was set by the 1998-99 team, which finished 28-7 after losing in the West Regional finals to eventual national champion Connecticut.

"Now it's just a chance that if we could do something in the NCAA tournament, we can push that record out even more," Dickau said.

"This is a team where we can go pretty deep in the NCAA tournament," he said. "Obviously you have to have some things going your way, but I think we're talented enough and deep enough that we can take advantage of some things."

And they've got a proven formula, the one that kicks in when Dickau gets that look in his eyes and starts sizing up 3's.

"When he gets on a roll like that, you just give him the ball and get out of the way," Stepp said.



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