Zags Eye Return To Sweet Sixteen Saturday Against Shockers

            SALT LAKE CITY – Gonzaga University aims for its first NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen berth since 2006 Saturday when the West Region’s top-seed and nation’s top-ranked team faces No. 9 seed Wichita State University.

            Game time is approximately 5:40 p.m. PDT from EnergySolutions Arena, home of the NBA’s Utah Jazz.

            The Bulldogs advanced with a 64-58 win over Southern University in Thursday’s Second Round match-up.

            Gonzaga is playing in its 15th straight NCAA Tournament and its 16th in school history, first making the dance in 1995. The Bulldogs have won at least one game in each of their last four appearances and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in 2006. The Bulldogs lone appearance in the Elite Eight was 1999 when the current streak of NCAA appearances began.

            The Shockers, the No. 9 seed which disposed of No. 8 University of Pittsburgh Thursday, is playing in its 10th NCAA Tournament and its second straight. The Shockers fell to Virginia Commonwealth 62-59 in last year’s NCAA Second Round. The best tournament run for WSU since the bracket expanded to 64 teams was 1991 when the No. 6 seeded Shockers lost to LSU 96-85 in the Regional final. WSU advanced to the Final Four in 1965 when the bracket was a 24-team affair, losing to UCLA in the national semifinal 108-89 and losing the Third Place game to Princeton University 118-82.

            WSU is paced by All-Missouri Valley Conference first-team selection Cleanthony Early (6-8, 215, Jr., F) who averages 13.8 ppg. He has started 19 of his 35 appearances but has not been starting of late. Carl Hall (6-8, 238, Sr., F) was an All-Valley second-team pick, averaging 12.7 ppg and a team-leading 7.1 rpg. Malcolm Armstead (6-0, 206, Sr., G) was honorable mention and named to the All-Newcomer team, averaging 10.7 ppg and 4.0 assists/game as the only Shocker to start all 35 games to date.

            Gonzaga and Wichita State have met just once on the hardwood, the homestanding Shockers prevailing 54-53 in overtime in the opening round of Cessna Classic hosted by WSU Dec. 29, 1994. The Zags defeated Air Force for third place, and went on to make their first NCAA tourney appearance that spring.



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