March 21, 2000
GAME: No. 10 Gonzaga (26-8) vs. No. 6 Purdue (23-8), West Regional
Surprising everyone but themselves by reaching the regional semifinals for the second straight year, the Gonzaga Bulldogs try to take another step closer to the Final Four against Purdue.
The 10th-seeded Bulldogs beat two higher seeds for the second straight year, eliminating seventh-seeded Louisville in the first round before stunning second-seeded St. John's 82-76 on Saturday behind 26 points from Matt Santangelo.
Showing a different kind of confidence this year as opposed to their second-round upset of Stanford last year, the Bulldogs quietly celebrated at halfcourt, knowing the win was just another step in their goal of reaching Indianapolis.
"Two years of tournament success isn't exactly a storied history. St. John's is one of the legendary programs in college basketball, so sure it's an upset," Santangelo said. "But we're a part of the beginning of something, and if we keep having tournament success, we'll get that type of respect. It's just of no concern to us now."
Sixth-seeded Purdue is in the round of 16 for the third straight year and is trying for its first Final Four since 1980. The Boilermakers survived a one-point win over Dayton in the first round before surprising third-seeded Oklahoma 66-62 on Saturday.
Jaraan Cornell scored 13 of his 15 points in the final 9:30 for Purdue, which was seeded seventh last year before surprising second-seeded Miami.
With all the attention on Gonzaga trying to duplicate its stunning run to the regional final, Boilermakers coach Gene Keady seems content to prepare his team in that shadow for Thursday's game.
"Why they don't want to write about Purdue? I couldn't care less," Keady said after Saturday's win. "We just have to earn our way to keep proving that we deserve it."
The Boilermakers will need more of the outstanding perimeter defense that helped them to victories in the first two rounds. Purdue held Dayton and Oklahoma to a combined 3-for-31 shooting from 3-point range, while Gonzaga sank 17 of 38 shots from beyond the arc in its two wins.
Purdue won the only meeting between the teams, 83-68 in the second round of the 1998 Preseason NIT.
The winner of this game will play either fourth-seeded LSU or eighth-seeded Wisconsin in Saturday's regional final.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Gonzaga - F Casey Calvary (13.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg), F Richie Frahm (17.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg), C Axel Dench (9.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg), G Ryan Floyd (5.9 ppg, 1.8 apg), G Santangelo (13.4 ppg, 6.4 apg). Purdue - F Mike Robinson (11.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg), F Rodney Smith (5.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg), C Greg McQuay (8.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg), G Cornell (12.7 ppg, 2.2 apg), G Carson Cunningham (10.8 ppg, 4.2 apg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Gonzaga - Automatic bid, West Coast Conference tournament champion, defeated Louisville 77-66 in first round, defeated St. John's 82-76 in second round. Purdue - At-large bid, Big Ten Conference, defeated Dayton 62-61 in first round, defeated Oklahoma 66-62 in second round.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Gonzaga - 5-2, 3 appearances. Purdue - 25-18, 19 appearances.
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