Bulldogs Face No. 1 Seed Arizona In Round Of 32

March 21, 2003

GAME: No. 9 Gonzaga (24-8) vs. No. 1 Arizona (26-3).

REGIONAL: West, second round.

TIME: Saturday, 5:40 p.m. EST.

SITE: The Jon M. Huntsman Center; Salt Lake City.

Arizona is finally feeling healthy. Now Lute Olson would like to see his team start playing like it.

The top-seeded Wildcats are looking for a more efficient performance when they face Gonzaga, a team that has proven capable of pulling off upsets in past years to reach the round of 16.

Though Arizona easily advanced past the first round with an 80-51 win over Vermont, it was considered a lackluster effort for a team that had been ranked atop the polls for much of the season.

The Wildcats shot just 39 percent (13-for-33) in the first half and the game was close throughout the first 15 minutes against the 16th-seeded Catamounts. Olson's team finished 7-of-23 from 3-point range and committed 16 turnovers.

"We were ready," said Arizona senior Luke Walton, "we just came out kind of slow, and made too many turnovers."

Two days off following an upset loss to UCLA in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament, and a week between games, apparently benefited some banged-up Wildcats.

Walton, hampered by an ankle injury for most of the season, had 12 points, six assists and six rebounds against Vermont. Salim Stoudamire, bothered by tendinitis in both knees recently, had 18 points and made 4-of-8 from 3-point range.

"The two days off probably did (Stoudamire) more good than anybody else," Olson said. "Luke Walton right now is feeling better than he's felt since early November. Physically, I think we're there. We need to stop making unnecessary mistakes."

One of Olson's biggest concerns should be getting leading scorer Jason Gardner on track. The Wooden Award candidate missed all five of his 3-point tries and had just four points on 2-of-9 shooting, though he added seven boards and six assists. Gardner went 2-for-20, including 0-of-12 from beyond the arc, in the loss to UCLA.

While Arizona is looking for its third consecutive regional semifinal berth and seventh in 10 years, Gonzaga is trying reach the round of 16 for the fourth time in five seasons.

The Bulldogs, seeded ninth this year, pulled off second-round upsets of No. 2 seeds Stanford and St. John's in 1999 and 2000, respectively, as a No. 10 seed. They also reached the regional semifinals by beating Indiana State two years ago, but lost to Wyoming in the opening round last season.

Though it wasn't an upset, Gonzaga knocked off a perennial powerhouse in the first round by beating Cincinnati 74-69. The Bulldogs led by double digits in the final minutes, then hung on as the Bearcats went on a late 11-2 run.

"We have a flare for the dramatic," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "They made a run at us and we were lucky to hang on."

Gonzaga junior forwards Ronny Turiaf and Cory Violette might be able to match up effectively against Arizona.

Turiaf had 22 points, including a school record-tying 16 free throws, and 10 rebounds Thursday. Violette came off the bench for 14 points and five boards.

That duo will try to keep up with Walton, one of the nation's best all-around players, and center Channing Frye, who had 12 points and 12 boards Thursday for his fifth double-double in 12 games.

Arizona beat Gonzaga in 2000 in the teams' only previous meeting.

The winner will face either Illinois or Notre Dame in the regional semifinals at Anaheim, Calif., on Thursday.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Gonzaga - F Tony Skinner, F Zach Gourde, C Turiaf, G Blake Stepp, G Winston Brooks. Arizona - F Walton, F Rick Anderson, C Frye, G Stoudamire, G Gardner.

TEAM LEADERS: Gonzaga - Stepp, 17.8 ppg and 5.9 apg; Violette, 8.0 rpg. Arizona - Gardner, 14.1 ppg and 5.0 apg; Frye, 7.9 rpg.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Gonzaga - At-large bid, West Coast Conference; beat No. 9 Cincinnati 74-69, first round. Arizona - At-large bid, Pac-10; beat No. 16 seed Vermont 80-51, first round.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Gonzaga - 8-5, 6 years. Arizona - 35-20, 22 years.



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