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GONZAGA UNIVERSITY NEWS FEATURE
Dale Goodwin, Director
Peter Tormey, Associate Director
|Zags Women Dancin' in NCAA Tournament|
TRACKING THE ZAGS
By Dale Goodwin
(PORTLAND, Ore.) — Portland is some 350 miles southwest of Spokane, but basketball players on the Gonzaga men’s and women’s teams felt like they were playing before home crowds Sunday as the women defeated Loyola Marymount 64-47 to capture the West Coast Conference tournament title, while the men beat San Diego 88-70 to move into the championship game of the WCC tourney Monday at 6 p.m.
The women’s win put the Zags into their first-ever NCAA Division I Tournament. A men’s win Monday will put the Zags into the big tournament for the ninth-straight year.
At least 90 percent of the 1,200 fans attending the women’s title contest seemed to be pulling for the Zags, and many friends and family members joined the players on the Chiles Center court to share the historic win as freshman Heather Bowman was named tournament MVP, while teammates sophomore Jami Bjorklund and senior Stephanie Hawk joined Bowman on the all-tournament team.
The men played before a sell-out crowd close to 5,000 strong, and the red-clad fans produced a steady roar.
For Gonzaga senior guard Derek Raivio, home is just across the bridge in Vancouver, Wash. And he is playing on the campus where his father Rick starred on the basketball court in the late 1970s for the University of Portland Pilots. He was a two-time honorable mention all-American, and his name appears high on Portland career record lists in many offensive and rebounding categories. He is the fourth all-time leading scorer with 1,668 points and the all-time leading rebounder with 910.
His son isn’t too shabby either. Derek has scored 1,416 career points so far, and leads the nation in free-throw shooting percentage, having missed just 27 times in 358 tries. He was 8-for-8 Sunday.
Fellow senior Sean Mallon added 10 rebounds while David Pendergraft scored 22 points. Abdullahi Kuso scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in just 13 minutes, plagued by foul trouble. Micah Downs added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had three guys in double-digit rebounds,” said Coach Mark Few. “We were scratching and clawing and flying around out there. These players are doing a phenomenal job.”
Even little used 7-foot-3 freshman Will Foster played 5 quality minutes, and incited the crowd as he grabbed two rebounds, blocked a shot, altered numerous others and scored.
“Will was big tonight,” Few said. “We had some foul trouble and (assistant coach) Leon (Rice) suggested we use Will. He was ready to go and made the most of it.”
A couple of numbers worth noting: Gonzaga scored 40 points in the paint, compared to San Diego’s 14. GU got 42 points off the bench, San Diego 14. GU out-rebounded San Diego 47-30, and outshot the Toreros from the field 48 percent to 32 percent.
For women’s coach Kelly Graves, his GU team posted its fifth straight winning season in seven seasons at the Bulldog helm. He had previous trips to the NCAA tournament as an assistant coach at Portland four times (1994-97), and once in his first year as head coach at Saint Mary’s in 1999.
This ticket to the Big Dance is significant for a couple of other members of Graves’ staff. Jennifer Mountain played four years for the Zags. Her freshman team went 11-3 in the WCC and placed first, but that was before the initiation of the WCC tournament, and the NCAA snubbed the Zags. She has served as Graves’ assistant for the past six years, and is looking forward to the dance. Trainer Leann Stockton will be accompanying the women to the dance. Big brother John never got the chance to dance in his four sterling years at Gonzaga.
(Game stories at www.gozags.com)
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