Zags survive - barely

south regional

Freshman Goodson hits shot with 0.9 of a second left to top Western Ky.

ncaa tournament

March 22, 2009|By From Sun news services

Gonzaga's rowdy celebration spilled into the locker room, where the team watched a replay of freshman Demetri Goodson's game-winner and got to cheer again and again.

Goodson streaked downcourt and made a short, running bank shot with 0.9 of a second left, lifting the fourth-seeded Bulldogs over Western Kentucky, 83-81, last night in the second round of the NCAA tournament in Portland, Ore.

Gonzaga (28-5) advanced to the South Regional semifinals to play top seed North Carolina on Friday in Memphis, Tenn.

"It's unbelievable for a freshman point guard, a big-time, big-time play," guard Micah Downs said. "He came down, read it perfectly, and then that's his shot. He practices it all the time."

Steffphon Pettigrew made a tip-in for the 12th-seeded Hilltoppers (25-9) that tied it at 81 with 7.2 seconds left. But Goodson took the inbound pass and went straight to the basket with little resistance, hitting from close on the left side.

"I drove left and there were two guys there, and the 'big' went with Matt [Bouldin]. That opened up the lane, so I just took it," Goodson said. "I was really surprised to get that look."

Western Kentucky, which made a surprise run to the regional semifinals last year, was led by Orlando Mendez-Valdez with 25 points. Coach Ken McDonald's signal for a timeout after Goodson's shot went unnoticed amid the chaos.

The Zags mobbed their freshman hero at center court, engulfing him in a leaping scrum. Coach Mark Few turned to a throng of Gonzaga fans behind the bench and pumped his fists.

"That will go down as one of the biggest shots in Gonzaga history," said Jeremy Pargo, who had 18 points.

The Bulldogs were still leaping in the locker room when they replayed the final shot. They replayed it again to poke fun at their victory celebration.

Western Kentucky's locker room was a stark contrast. Guard Anthony Sally sat facing his locker for several minutes after the game, his head in his hands.

"It hurts," he said. "We came so far, and it was right there."

This was the 11th straight win for the Zags.

Bouldin had 20 points and eight rebounds for Gonzaga.

A.J. Slaughter had 24 points for the Hilltoppers, who had won eight straight going into the game.

North Carolina 84, LSU 70: : Ty Lawson got back just in time for North Carolina, saving the top-seeded Tar Heels from a stunning NCAA tournament loss in their home state.

Lawson scored 21 of his 23 points after halftime, and his three-point play sparked the decisive second-half run as North Carolina held off the eighth-seeded Tigers in Greensboro.

Wayne Ellington scored 23 points to lead the Tar Heels (30-4), who ran off 11 straight points to break a tie and take control.

Marcus Thornton scored 25 points to lead LSU (27-8), which gave the Tar Heels everything they could handle even while playing in front of a hostile crowd that was at least two-thirds full of light blue. But in the end, North Carolina - a veteran team trying to return to the Final Four - had just enough to hang on.

Lawson, the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, had missed the previous three games after he jammed his right toe in practice two days before the regular-season finale against Duke. It was apparent early on that the speedy junior was not 100 percent, but the longer the game went on, the better he got.

With the Tar Heels leading 64-63, Lawson split two defenders after a turnover and drew a foul while lobbing a shot to the rim. The ball hung there for a moment before dropping through, a three-point play that put North Carolina ahead 67-63.

Oklahoma 73, Michigan 63: : The 10th-seeded Wolverines bumped Blake Griffin around, knocked him to the floor, even bloodied his nose. There were no wrestling takedowns, but Michigan gave it to him pretty good.

Nothing worked.

The Sooners' bulldozer of a power forward took the hits and kept moving, sending second seed Oklahoma back into the NCAA's round of 16 for the first time in six years with a victory in Kansas City, Mo. He finished with 33 points and 17 rebounds.

"He's a fantastic player on a fantastic team," Michigan coach John Beilien said.

Still sore after being dumped head over heels by Morgan State's Ameer Ali, Griffin played part of the first half with a cotton swab in his nose and had to cover up a scratch on his elbow after being knocked around by the Wolverines.

As he has all season, the 6-foot-10, 251-pound sophomore shrugged off the beating and kept charging, scoring 20 points in the second half for the Sooners (29-5). They'll face the Syracuse-Arizona State winner in next week's regional finals in Memphis.

The 10th-seeded Wolverines (21-14) overcame foul trouble in the first half to keep it close and cut a 13-point lead to three with just more than six minutes left, but just couldn't find a way to stop Griffin.

DeShawn Sims and reserve Anthony Wright had 14 points for Michigan.

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