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GONZAGA UNIVERSITY NEWS RELEASE
Dale Goodwin, Director
Peter Tormey, Associate Director
|WCC Basketball Tournament_3_Men_Game Day_Sunday|
Finally . . . It's Game Day
By Dale Goodwin
LAS VEGAS (Sunday, March 8) -- While Donny & Marie and Cher headline on the famous Las Vegas Strip (entertainment here isn’t what it used to be, apparently) the Gonzaga men’s and women’s basketball teams are in the spotlight at The Orleans Arena, just 1 mile off the Strip on Tropicana Boulevard as the West Coast Conference’s top-seeded teams prepare to launch their tournament campaigns today. (See women’s story in another Tracking the Zags today). Gonzaga men enter the tournament 24-5 overall, and ranked 14th in the country in both national polls.
Jerry Krause, director of the Gonzaga men’s basketball operations, said focus has been the staff’s primary message to their team.
"There’s a lot going on in Vegas," Krause said. "We have reminded the players that it is the collective strength of our little band that matters. We are staying away from the tournament hotel, and we practiced at an area high school. We will do no sightseeing or cultural excursions here, like we would normally do on a road trip during the regular season. How we respond to road adversity and tournament adversity will be our key.
"Playing in this tournament is like going to a family reunion," Krause said. "You know a lot about everyone you see there. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which makes this more challenging. We feel good, though, that this is the first year we’ve had a level playing field."
The previous 22 WCC tournaments have been hosted by conference schools, only one time at Gonzaga. The executive committee of the WCC has agreed to a one-year trial at The Orleans, with options to extend that agreement over many years if the 2009 result is good for both the league and The Orleans Hotel complex.
Senior forward Josh Heytvelt agrees. "Everything is clicking now, like it was in the beginning of the
Heytvelt and junior guard Matt Boldin were named last week first-team All-Conference selections. But one player who has helped the resurgence of this team, which has won seven straight and 16-of-17 in 2009, is senior Micah Downs. "I like being that utility guy who can do a little bit of everything – hit shots, rebound, block shots."
Sorenson, who had never been to Las Vegas, put this season into perspective.
"This has been a very special year for me – I think for all of us. The relationships and friends we’ve made, the things we’ve all done and the places we’ve gone . . . I keep thinking how fortunate we have been to have had this experience," Sorenson said. "It gives me goosebumps every time I think about it."
MEN’S NOTES . . .
Gonzaga has won six straight against Santa Clara and 19 of the last 20. Heytvelt had a career-high 29 points in Santa Clara the final weekend of league play.
Jeremy Pargo, Austin Daye and Steven Gray all received honorable mention on the WCC All-Conference team.
This marks the 10th time in the last 12 years Gonzaga has entered the men’s tournament as the No. 1 seed. That means fans won’t see Gonzaga’s new black road jerseys that sport ZAGS across the chest, the first time since the 1973-74 season that a Gonzaga men’s basketball uniform has had ZAGS on the front. The black uniforms were ordered for the Feb. 7 Memphis game in the Spokane Arena in support of game sponsor Ronald McDonald House when GU blacked out the arena. Every fan received a black T-shirt with ZAGS emblazoned across the chest.
Fans might also notice that player names no longer appear on the backs of the uniform. Jerry Krause explained, "We’re representing Gonzaga University in a team sport. I think it’s been a good message to remind ourselves (that the name on the front is more important than the name on the back)."
Fans may join the Gonzaga Alumni Association for a pre-game social at The Orleans today beginning at 4:30 p.m. Cost is $10 to cover the cost of food and beverages.