Bulldogs Battle Wildcats In Desert Classic In Phoenix
Oct. 7, 2008
PHOENIX, Ariz. - Four of the nation's premier teams - including Gonzaga University - will headline the Desert Classic on Dec. 14 at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix.
The Bulldogs will face the University of Arizona in the 3 p.m. PST opener. Arizona State University and IUPUI meet at 12:15 PST in the first half of the showcase double-header. The event is managed by BEST Collegiate.
Arizona and Gonzaga last met in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament in Salta Lake City, Utah, still considered one of the most thrilling games ever seen during March Madness and dubbed an immediate Instant Classic by ESPN. The ninth-seeded Zags pushed the top-ranked and title favorite Wildcats to the brink before falling 96-95 in double overtime. Arizona holds a 2-0 series advantage with the other win coming Nov. 29, 2000, on the Wildcats court.
The Bulldogs are led by Jeremy Pargo, the 2008 West Coast Conference Player of the Year and Associated Press honorable mention All-America selection. He is joined by a host of returning players including 2008 All-WCC first-team pick Matt Bouldin and WCC All-Freshman team honorees Austin Daye and Steven Gray.
The Bulldogs are ranked in the Top 10 of most pre-season polls.
The event marks a return to Phoenix for the Bulldogs, who defeated the University of Texas at U.S. Airways Center in the Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge on Dec. 2, 2006. Gonzaga also played in Phoenix in the West Regional Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight during the Bulldogs amazing run in 1999, the Zags downing the University of Florida 73-72 in the Sweet Sixteen matchup before falling to eventual national champion University of Connecticut 67-62 for the right to advance to the Final Four.
Anchored by All-American Chase Budinger, Arizona looks to regain Top 10 status. Head coach Lute Olson is returning to the bench after taking a sabbatical in 2007-08. Despite his absence, the Wildcats still advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 24th consecutive season.
Arizona State recorded the best turnaround in the nation last season by winning 13 more game than the prior year, finishing 2008 at 21-13 and earning Coach Herb Sendek Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors. Led by Harden, a sophomore, and senior Jeff Pendergraph, the Sun Devils return their top seven scorers and 94.6 percent of their scoring. Entering his 15th season at the helm, IUPUI coach Ron Hunter has been instrumental in the program's ascension to a rising power on the Division I level. Last season, behind NBA first-round draft pick George Hill, the Jaguars compiled a school-record 26 wins and .788 winning percentage. The Desert Classic will mark the first meeting between the two teams. Hunter previously served as an assistant for Sendek.
"To have both Arizona State and Arizona playing in the same event will create an atmosphere unlike any other outside of March Madness," said Brooks Downing, Executive Vice President of BEST Collegiate. "The great fans in the Valley will have an opportunity catch both of their favorite teams early in what will be one of college basketball's top doubleheaders this season. And with Gonzaga positioned to be a Top 10 team and IUPUI as America's next great underdog, this will be a terrific Sunday afternoon of basketball."
Tickets are priced from $25 to $200 and are now available at the U.S. Airways Center box office, all Ticketmaster locations, Ticketmaster.com, or by calling (480) 784-4444. Gonzaga is already sold out of its allotment of tickets.
For corporate and group packages, please contact BEST Collegiate at (859) 264-8020. Complete event information can be found on www.experienceBEST.com.
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