Gonzaga eliminates favored St. John's with 82-76 victory

No. 10 seed proves upstart again, ousting No. 2 seed

West at Tucson, Ariz.

Ncaa Tournament

March 19, 2000|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Gonzaga did it again.

No, this isn't a reference to its 82-76 win yesterday over No. 2 seed St. John's, supposedly an upset because of the Bulldogs' No. 10 seeding in the West Regional. Nor is this a reference to another appearance by Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.

Gonzaga made it to the West Regional final a year ago, and except for a loss against eventual national champion Connecticut, the team is perfect against "superior" teams in the past two years of the NCAA tournament.

As St. John's coach Mike Jarvis put it, "We lost to a very good basketball team. The repetition of that feat does not merit awe."

Said Gonzaga coach Mark Few: "I would hope that the respect was already there, but our win today does validate that we are one of the top 20 programs in the country."

What the Bulldogs (26-8) did to St. John's (25-8) is exactly what they did to Louisville two days ago. They fell back a little bit. Then they gained steam, letting the opponent hang around until the six-minute mark of the second half. That's when they took the game away from the Red Storm, a team that had set its sights on Indianapolis.

By the time Casey Calvary hit two free throws with 6: 03 remaining, giving the Bulldogs a 63-56 lead, St. John's plans were shot.

Gonzaga's win hadn't seemed possible in the game's early moments, when the Red Storm seemed on its way, taking a 34-25 lead at one point.

But after Ryan Floyd's shot gave Gonzaga its first advantage with 17: 49 left, the teams exchanged the lead six times and tied three times before Matt Santangelo, who had 26 points and five assists, scored five straight points to start a 9-2 run. that gave Gonzaga a 59-54 lead.

"I'm very proud of the way this team has handled adversity in both of our games here," said Few. "We were tentative early on, then they changed their frame of mind to more of an attack mode."

The Bulldogs had trouble with St. John's in the game's early minutes, falling behind 10-4 as Lavor Postell and Anthony Glover found clear shots inside.

"It's no secret that we've been able to survive this year with a 6-5 center and a 6-8 backup, and we almost did it again," Jarvis said, referring to Glover and Donald Emanuel. "It means that we have to play a flawless game."

Gonzaga had been relying on perimeter shots over the first five minutes, and its luck only began to change once the ball went inside.

With Calvary and Axel Dench out, reserves Mark Spink and Zach Gourde were the ones making the impact. Calvary and Dench went on to combine for 30 points and 13 rebounds the rest of the game.

Dench had 12 of his 17 points in the first half.

"The big daddy [Dench] was huge today," said Santangelo, who made six of 10 three-pointers. "We're still fighting for respect. Any label you put on us means we're still playing, and we're still winning. That's what counts right now."

Bootsy Thornton (Dunbar), in his final game at St. John's, was 3-for-13 from the field and finished with 12 points. Erick Barkley scored 21 points, but he hit only seven of 18 shots.

The Red Storm also was frustrated with the foul situation. Its customary hand checks were called by the officials, and four of the team's five starters finished with four fouls.

Said Barkley: "The referees didn't really let me play Big East basketball tonight. I wasn't able to play as aggressively as I would have liked to, but [Gonzaga] did do a good job."

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