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GONZAGA UNIVERSITY NEWS RELEASE
Dale Goodwin, Director
Peter Tormey, Associate Director
|Tracking the Zags No. 13|Sun Rises over Zag Nation|
By Peter Tormey
OAKLAND, Calif. – Despite a heart-breaking loss last night, the sun came up this morning over Zag Nation as the Bulldogs try to focus on the many, many good things in their splendid season and NCAA Tournament run to the Sweet Sixteen.
That run ended Thursday night as UCLA rallied from a 71-62 deficit with 3:27 left in the game, scoring 11 unanswered points to lift the No. 2 seed Bruins to a 73-71 win over No. 3 seed Gonzaga. The Bruins advance to the Elite Eight Saturday in a 4:05 p.m. game at the Oakland Arena against the No. 1 seed Memphis Tigers, who beat both the Bruins and the Bulldogs earlier this year.
The Bulldogs are scheduled to arrive in Spokane today approximately between 12: 30-12:45 p.m. on a charter flight. All fans, faculty, students, staff and alumni are encouraged to greet them at the McCarthey Athletic Center parking lot (on the southeast part of campus) at approximately 1:15 p.m.
Naturally, Zags worldwide were disappointed but extremely proud of the Bulldogs and their outstanding accomplishments this season. Some 100 Zag Nation members at Gonzaga-in-Florence Italy, one of the university’s study-abroad locations, were up until 4 a.m. Florence time watching the game at a local pub.
“When the CBS coverage focused entirely on the Texas game, there was a mass exodus to the school where all of us gathered in two classrooms on the top floor to watch via the Internet,” said Kassi Kain, Gonzaga’s associate dean for student life in Florence. “We cheered just like we were in the Kennel and when we lost so suddenly, everyone went into shock. Probably the same shock that hit the rest of Zag Nation.”
Pacific-10 Conference Freshman of the Year Luc Richard Mbah A Moute scored six of UCLA’s final 11 points, including the go-ahead shot from under the basket with 9 seconds left to give the 30-6 Bruins their first lead of the entire game, which they did not relinquish, snapping the 29-4 Bulldogs’ 20-game winning streak, which was the nation’s longest.
Gonzaga was led once again by 6-foot-8 junior forward Adam Morrison, the nation’s leading scorer, who finished with 24 points and five rebounds. His two free throws with 3:27 left were the Bulldogs’ final points of the game. Senior center J.P. Batista finished with 18 points and nine rebounds while junior guard Derek Raivio added 12 points, six assists and three rebounds.
The African-born Mbah A Moute started the UCLA rally, connecting on two free throws and a put-back of an errant Jordan Farmar shot to narrow the deficit to 71-66. A two-pointer by Farmar, two free throws by Ryan Hollins and a third by sophomore guard Arron Afflalo tied the game at 71 in the final chaotic seconds, setting up the go-ahead shot by the 6-7 forward Mbah A Moute from Cameroon. Farmar and Afflalo led the Bruins in scoring with 15 apiece, followed by Mbah A Moute’s 14 points (10 rebounds) and Hollins’ 12 points (and eight rebounds).
Gonzaga had several chances to win near the end. However, harried by the swarming Bruin defense, the Bulldogs committed three fouls, one turnover and missed five shots in the final 3 minutes -- including a last-gasp shot at the buzzer by Batista.
Gonzaga took a 13-point lead into halftime at 42-29 and outshot the Bruins from the floor 57.7 percent to 25.9 percent during the first period. The Bulldogs also beat UCLA on the boards in the first half 20-15. But the Zags shot only 36 percent from the floor in the second half to UCLA’s 53.3 percent as the Bruins turned up the defensive heat.
Morrison fell to the floor and lay face-down in disappointment at the end until UCLA’s Afflalo offered him a hand in a show of good sportsmanship that Morrison alluded to after the game.
“That’s just a sign of obviously a great program,” Morrison said. “They had enough guts as a man to come over in their moment of victory, pick somebody off the floor. If I could thank them, I would. That’s just a sign of, you know, great people and great players. That’s more than basketball.”
Gonzaga Coach Mark Few was proud of the Bulldogs who kept Zag Nation enthralled all season-long.
“Well, we just didn’t quite finish that one off,” Few said. “I mean, I’m really proud of how our guys came out. I thought we had a great approach and were the aggressive team for almost the entire game.”
Both Few and Morrison credited UCLA with making big plays down the stretch.
“We had control of that game for most of the game,” Morrison said. “It just happened in a blur. That’s the way the game works. If you don’t execute down the stretch, you pay for it. We just had a few missteps. Got to take your hat off to UCLA.”
Few said he gathered his team together at center-court after the game to provide some “family” support following the difficult loss which, for some, was their last game in a Gonzaga uniform.
“I just wanted to protect them a little bit,” he said. “It was a vulnerable moment there where they were obviously, you know, devastated when it hits that your season’s over,” he said. “I think it’s important to get with your family, get in tight. I just told them, you know, ‘make sure you enjoy all the good times because we had a lot of them this year. Don’t focus on that last, you know, 20 seconds.’ ”
UCLA Coach Ben Howland said Thursday night that the Bruins “beat a great team today. As I said going into the game, that was the best team we’ve played all year with the possible exception of who happens to be our next opponent, Memphis. Gonzaga is terrific. Adam Morrison is special. We feel very fortunate to have pulled out this victory.”