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GONZAGA UNIVERSITY NEWS RELEASE
Dale Goodwin, Director
Peter Tormey, Associate Director
|Tracking the Zags-Men III: Shoot-around|
By Peter Tormey
(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- As the second hand on a wall clock here at the ARCO Arena makes another full revolution and another minute clicks forward, the Gonzaga Bulldogs seem to grow increasingly intense and, as the players say, “dialed in” to their task.
The players were still loose alright, they clearly were having a good time and enjoying the shoot-around Wednesday evening at this 17,317-seat arena. The Zags even broke into an impromptu slam-dunk contest at the end of the practice session in which Micah Downs drew many ooohs and ahhs for a thundering bounce-it-off-the-backboard throw-down. Then, the Zags -- being Zags -- made a slew of mostly younger fans happy by stopping on their way out of the arena to sign autographs.
Raivio, asked about this team’s remarkable resilience this season following losses, injuries and other setbacks and the players’ ability to get the Zag Train on the main line time after time, attributed it in large part to the team’s strength of character.
“We have a lot of character and perseverance. We have a lot of talent. Everybody had to pick up their game,” he said. “It shows the heart and perseverance of these guys.”
Raivio, who saved perhaps his best games for when the Zags needed them the most, at the end of the season to win the West Coast Conference championship and league tournament, said the team is rapidly improving at the right time.
“The main thing is that we’re playing well at the right time," Raivio said. "Right now, we’re the underdogs, and that’s how we like to be. We just have to play with nothing to lose and play loose and free.”
Raivio said he felt the Zags were an NCAA Tournament team even after losing center Josh Heytvelt in February, and cited the Zags’ latest run to capture the WCC regular-season and WCC Tournament titles as evidence.
“The rules have changed. Our approach has changed as a team. We’ve all had to be a little more aggressive,” he said. “I think guys have had to step up – guys who weren’t having to score have to score now. Guys who didn’t play a lot of minutes do now.”
Both Coach Few and Mallon said Downs has been a major focus of their improved play in recent weeks.
“We always knew Micah had a lot of talent. He’s gone through some rough times, transferring over and had to sit out and he was injured, so it took him a while to get into shape. He’s been a main reason for our success lately. He stepped it up huge and showed everybody he could play. He’s grown a lot as a teammate, too. We can all see that. We are very lucky to have him playing like he is right now.”
Pargo, from Chicago, when asked about his expectations for the tournament, was brief and to the point.
“I expect us to come out and play hard and play well,” he said. “This is not the time for slacking off or joking. We’re going to try to play hard and play well.”
The Zags’ task is formidable: beat the Indiana Hoosiers today (Thursday), keep the magic of this roller-coaster season alive and play t he winner of the UCLA vs. Weber State game in the second round on Saturday. Oh, and there’s one catch: losing today does not appear to be an option for this team.
Click on the following link to read all the Tracking the Zags stories for both the GU men and women in their respective NCAA Tournaments.
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UP NEXT: A look at Indiana’s views about today’s game, and a visit with a Bulldog of Yesteryear, Larry Brown, a Sacramento native and three-year starter for the Bulldogs in the mid-1960s for the late Coach Hank Anderson.
THE VENUE: ARCO Arena was constructed in 1988 at a cost of $40 million. The 442,000-square-foot facility is versatile enough to host events from ice shows to monster trucks. ARCO Arena is home to the Sacramento Kings of the NBA and the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs. This is its second NCAA Western Regional Men's Basketball Tournament . ARCO has hosted such world-famous acts as the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Garth Brooks, and a growing roll call of today's biggest names in entertainment.
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