Excitement Overflowing In Spokane
March 20, 2000
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - A 40-foot banner at the back of the Gonzaga University student center touts "The Road to Indianapolis."
For this small, liberal arts college, by rights that road should be steep, twisted and studded with rocks. But another upset victory Saturday in the NCAA tournament has raised hopes the Bulldogs will make their second consecutive trip to the final eight - and perhaps beyond.
"They've definitely got a good chance to go all the way to the Final Four," said student worker Greg Dorrington, who sold tickets Sunday to several dozen people able to spare attention for a Bulldogs baseball doubleheader against Loyola Marymount.
Getting to Indianapolis for the national semifinals would require two more victories for Gonzaga, seeded 10th in the West Regional. If students have any doubts, they're not sharing.
Hundreds crammed into the Crosby Student Center to watch on a big-screen TV as Gonzaga defeated second-seeded St. John's 82-76 at Tucson, Ariz.
"This team has heart, and they can go all the way," said freshman Adam Ueltschi as students staged an impromptu rally outside after the victory.
The fans knew of their team's talents before the Bulldogs surprised the rest of the nation with their run in last year's tournament. Gonzaga won four regular-season West Coast Conference titles in the 1990s and made five postseason tournament appearances.
This year's squad rested Sunday after arriving at Spokane International Airport in the wee hours.
After Saturday's victory, first-year coach Mark Few and his players gathered at midcourt to salute Bulldogs fans - including students who had ditched a week of classes to follow the team.
The team struggled early in the season to live up to the expectations generated by last year's run in the NCAA tournament.
But Gonzaga won the WCC tournament before upending higher-seeded Louisville and St. John's in the NCAAs.
"I am so happy for these kids right now," Few said. "They have worked their entire basketball careers, and this is a great thing for them right now. These guys came through when the lights were on bright."
The next test comes Thursday, when the Bulldogs (26-8) play sixth-seeded Purdue (23-9) in the West Regional semifinals in Albuquerque, N.M.
The Boilermakers beat No. 3 seed Oklahoma 66-62 Saturday, and No. 8 Wisconsin shocked top-seeded Arizona to make it a clean sweep of the top three seeds in the suddenly wide-open regional.
By MARK JEWELL
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