Zags Play In An Unfamiliar Role
March 17, 2001
By JIM O'CONNELL
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Playing past the first round of the NCAA tournament is certainly nothing new for Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs have become the poster team for the schools from the non-power conferences, winning six games since 1999, including a victory over fifth-seeded Virginia in this year's upset-filled opening round.
What will be new for the 12th-seeded Zags when they play 13th-seeded Indiana State on Sunday at the Pyramid will be their uniforms.
For the first time ever in an NCAA tournament game, Gonzaga (25-6) will be wearing white as the higher seed.
"We did bring them," Bulldogs coach Mark Few said of the home uniforms. "That was the first thing I asked our manager after the Indiana State game ended. We have done pretty well wearing them at home for the last 10 years or so and we have won our last three league tournaments wearing them so I'm not worried about wearing white."
Few is worried about Indiana State (22-11), which beat fourth-seeded Oklahoma 70-68 in overtime to win its first NCAA tournament game since Larry Bird led the Sycamores to the championship game in 1979.
"Maybe we're going to face ourselves in the mirror," Few said. "Indiana State is very skilled, has a lot of moxie to them, some toughness to them in the way came back from injuries and adversity and they're difficult to guard in the halfcourt because they're very well-coached and they approach this tournament the way we do, with a chip on their shoulders. They want to prove they are a good team and a good program and maybe better than most people think they are."
Both teams feature good point guards - maybe the two most underrated in the country - and quality big men.
Dan Dickau had 29 points and five assists in Gonzaga's 86-85 win over Virginia, while Casey Calvary, the biggest name returning from the teams that reached the regional finals and round of 16 the last two years, had 16 points and 15 rebounds. His rebound basket with 9.2 seconds left was the game-winner for the Bulldogs.
Michael Menser of Indiana State led the country in assist-to-turnover ratio and forward Matt Renn scored 16 points over the final 14 1/2 minutes of regulation as the Sycamores overcame a 13-point deficit to force overtime.
"That's a pretty good compliment," Renn said when told Indiana State is similar in a lot of ways to Gonzaga. "They have really good guard play and good inside play. They run their offense really well and execute and we like think we do the same thing."
Indiana State got a big lift in the overtime when Kelyn Block returned from the locker room after having three teeth either knocked out or broken by an inadvertent elbow late in regulation. Block said he underwent about an hour of treatment that included three emergency root canals after the game, but he practiced Saturday and will definitely play Sunday even though he wasn't able to smile the day after.
"The biggest thing was the headache," he said. "My teeth were fine. They were all over the floor but they were fine. Once the headache went away I went back out and played."
Top-seeded Michigan State (25-4) continues its defense of the national championship against ninth-seeded Fresno State (26-6) in the other game Sunday. The winners advance to next week's regional in Atlanta.
The Spartans pulled away from Alabama State in the second half for a 69-35 victory, while the Bulldogs beat California 82-70 to advance.
"We like to push the ball and we have to stop them in transition," Michigan State guard Charlie Bell said. "It will definitely be a track meet but we have a lot of guys who can step in and we need them."
Michigan State averages 78.1 points, while Fresno State averages 82.0. The difference comes on the backboards where the Spartans again led the nation by outrebounding their opponents by almost 16 a game, while the Bulldogs barely had an advantage in that stat.
"This is going to be a physical game. They're going to pound us," Fresno State coach Jerry Tarkanian said. "It will be difficult to dislodge them. We have to play the best game we've played all year and get the bounces."
Tarkanian and Michigan State's Tom Izzo each have one national championship, Tarkanian winning his at UNLV in 1990.
"That is one of the best nine seeds in captivity," Izzo said. "This is a
game we want run in and they want to run in. It will be a 94-foot race."
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