By Peter Tormey
SALT LAKE CITY – When the Gonzaga Bulldogs take on the Indiana Hoosiers at 5:10 p.m. (PST) Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, they will face a team with a similar penchant for harrowing, come-from-behind victories.
After the No. 3 seed Bulldogs’ exasperating, come-from-behind 79-75 victory over No. 14 seed Xavier on Thursday, Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said the Bulldogs have become skilled at the Houdini-like last-minute escapes, noting that some two dozen of their 28 victories (against 3 losses) have occurred in the last three minutes of play.
Likewise, the 19-11 Hoosiers (9-7 in the Big 10) rallied from halftime deficits to win their last four contests. Chief among them, perhaps, was their 87-83 win Thursday over San Diego State to advance to the second round. With 11:44 left in the game Thursday, the Hoosiers trailed San Diego State by 10 (63-53) before they rallied to win by four.
It was the fifth time this season that Indiana had come alive from a double-digit deficit to win – the best comeback Indiana team since the 1998-99 Hoosiers also had five double-digit comeback wins. Indiana has overcome deficits in 17 of its 19 wins this season, and has trailed at halftime in four of its last five NCAA Tournament victories.
During a media briefing today at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Center, Few was asked about the Zags’ overwhelming tendency for come-from-behind wins.
“First, J.P. Batista’s value was vastly underestimated and underrated. Sometimes he was limited by foul trouble in the first half. Indiana has that with (6-foot-8 forward Marco) Killingsworth, but it’s sure great to have a big guy like that to go to. Like Adam Morrison, he’s made big shots for them all year,” Few said. “Secondly, I have no apologies (for the comebacks). We had 28 wins. We’re a hungry team. They like each other so much they want to keep on playing.”
Few said the Hoosiers are quick, get great penetration from junior guard Earl Calloway, shoot three-pointers well, can “kill you with the inside and with the catch-and-shoot,” and “you just can’t let Marco Killingsworth go one-on-one on you.” Killingsworth, their leading scorer, is averaging 17.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
On his match-up with Killingsworth, Batista said he knows Killingsworth is “a load” and that it will be a battle but reminded reporters that he has played against some strong guys before, too.
“I think our games are very similar, except he’s left-handed. He’s put up some big numbers this year, and he’s going to have to put up with me, too,” Batista said. “It’s going to be a great game. It’s going to be a battle inside and out, because they have great shooters, and inside guys. We have great shooters and inside guys, too. It’s going to be a great match-up.”