NCAA Tournament play in McKale

By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, March 21, 2005

NCAA Tournament play in McKale Center concluded Saturday with a second sixth-seeded team advancing to the round of 16.

No. 6 Utah, the regular-season Mountain West Conference champion, led throughout in a physical battle with No. 3 Oklahoma, winning 67-58 to earn a trip to Austin, Texa,s for next week's regional.

The Sooners (25-8) rotated four forwards on Utah's seven-foot All-American center Andrew Bogut and held him to 10 points, but the Australian-born sophomore found other ways to beat the opposition, dishing seven assists and pulling down 11 rebounds.

"They doubled in the middle. I was just looking to pass the ball and we had some of the best finishes I've seen in awhile," Bogut said.

Utah forward Justin Hawkins picked up the scoring slack, dominating the boards with game-highs of 20 points and 14 rebounds.

Guard Marc Jackson tacked on 17 points, and forward Bryant Markson had 16.

"We expected them to be physical," Hawkins said. "We matched their physicalness and won."

Oklahoma forward Taj Gray led the Sooners with his second double-double of the tournament. He had 19 points and 15 rebounds.

The Sooners turned the ball over just seven times to the Utes' 20.

Utah won the battle of field-goal percentages, outshooting Oklahoma 59 percent to 32 percent, and out-rebounded them 39-33.

"We struggled with turnovers. It hurt us, but we played defense and got our rebounds up," said Utah guard Tim Drisdom.

Oklahoma forward Johnnie Gilbert said the Sooners' lack of production on the offensive end was disheartening.

"You keep going back down and getting stops, but not getting buckets at the other end. That hurt us a lot," he said.

Utah's play on defense and on the glass, along with a 13-2 start, was the key to victory, said head coach Ray Giacoletti.

"I think how you're going to start is what kind of day you're going to have," he said. "A poor start would not have shown well here for us tonight."

Oklahoma forward Kevin Bookout, who played just 19 minutes, said the start doomed the Sooners.

"They're a quick-starting team and tonight, not coming ready to play in that first four minutes really hurt us," he said.

One coach's NCAA Tournament opening-weekend woes ended and another's continued Saturday in McKale Center when No. 6 Texas Tech met No. 3 Gonzaga.

Texas Tech head coach Bob Knight earned his first trip to the Sweet 16 in 10 years with Saturday's 71-69 victory, as Gonzaga's Mark Few fell in the tournament's first weekend for the fourth consecutive season.

"For years we had a difficult time getting anywhere. It's positive we've got this far," Knight said.

It took the Red Raiders a half to answer their coach's call, falling behind by as many as 13 points.

But on the strength of 24 points and nine rebounds from senior guard Ronald Ross, Tech earned a spot in Friday's regional game in Albuquerque, N.M.

"It's definitely an exciting feeling to accomplish something like this and make it to the Sweet 16," Ross said.

Ross was key in a 14-7 Texas Tech run in the game's final five minutes, hitting a 3-pointer and sinking two free throws.

The product of New Mexico's Hobbs High School and former walk-on will return to his home state in pursuit of a Final Four berth.

Ross's backcourt mates Jarrius Jackson and Martin Zeno each scored in double-figures with 18 and 11, respectively.

Junior forward Devonne Giles pulled down two crucial defensive rebounds in the closing minutes, calling a timeout while diving out of bounds on one and losing his shorts on the other.

"I was just trying to stay in front of (Gonzaga's post players) and battle for the rebounds," he said.

Giles finished with eight points and five rebounds.

Gonzaga sophomore Adam Morrison led all scorers with 25 points.

With the Bulldogs trailing 69-67 with 10 seconds remaining, senior forward Ronny Turiaf set a pick that freed Morrison for a look at a 3-pointer.

Morrison missed, and Texas Tech held on for the two-point win.

"We wanted to run a two-man game, and those guys had been delivering all game," Few said.

Turiaf credited the loss to complacent defense after the Bulldogs built their double-digit lead.

"(Texas Tech is) good, and you have to have a good defensive effort for 40 minutes. Maybe we did for only 36," he said.

Turiaf registered the game's only double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds in his last collegiate outing.

"I owe everything to Ronny," Few said. "He has really taken this team to a national level.

"He's an amazing person in every walk of life. The decision he made to turn down millions of dollars (from the NBA) to come back and play with us shows what type of person he is."

Few said that although Gonzaga was unable to fulfill its dream of reaching the program's first Final Four, he is proud of its season.

"People don't understand how hard it is to just get into the tournament and then how hard it is to win just one game," he said.