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Utah, Oklahoma, Gonzaga, Texas Tech advance in McKale action

By Kyle Kensing and Brett Fera
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, March 18 2005

Bogut paces Utah in No. 18 Utes' return to Tucson

TUCSON - Two teams extended their 2005 seasons at McKale Center during yesterday's early session of the First Round of the NCAA Tournament.

No. 3 seed Oklahoma and No. 6 Utah survived scares in their respective games before a crowd of nearly 14,000.

Mountain West Conference champion Utah (28-5) outlasted 11-seed UTEP 60-54 in a game that Miner head coach Doc Sadler said was almost like a home game for his team.

Several thousand UTEP supporters made the trek from El Paso to cheer on the Miners, who pounced on the Utes early.

UTEP held an early 15-8 lead before Utah's All-America center Andrew Bogut answered.

Bogut was integral in a 14-1 Ute run that led to a 30-25 halftime lead, scoring 17 points in the stanza.

The Miners triple-teamed Bogut most of the second half, allowing the sophomore from Australia just seven points.

UTEP senior Omar Thomas sparked the Miners on offense with 24 points.

"Even though he's a seven-footer I tried to go at (Bogut) like I would anyone else," Thomas said. "I knew he doesn't really move side-to-side, so I tried to get him going side-to-side instead of going over the top of him," he said.

The Miners focus on Bogut, however, opened up the floor for his teammates.

Guard Marc Jackson scored just eight points, but two of them were key in the Utes victory.

Jackson sank a 19-foot jump shot with less than 40 seconds remaining in regulation to break a 54-54 tie.

"During the course of the game you can't control shots rimming out, but you can control defense, and we did that," Utah guard Tim Drisdom said.

Drisdom did his part on defense, coming away with a steal with under a minute left on a play he said was "a little luck and a little defense."

-Kyle Kensing

Sooners stomp Niagara to open play in McKale

The Oklahoma Sooners (27-8) jumped out to a 13-point lead early and weathered strong opposition in its 84-67 win against 14-seed Niagara, a team making its first tournament appearance since 1970 and second in program history.

OU's 5-foot-7 sophomore point guard, Drew Lavender, powered the Sooner attack with 12 first half points.

"He played the way he plays in practice today, and that's how he always needs to play," OU head coach Kelvin Sampson said of Lavender.

NU senior forward Juan Mendez countered Lavender on the Purple Eagles' side of the ball.

The All-American scored 14 of his game-high 22 points and collected eight of his 15 rebounds in the first.

"He's got a complete package," OU junior forward Kevin Bookout said.

The Sooners kept a lid on Mendez in the second, holding him to just one field goal.

OU forwards Bookout, Johnnie Gilbert, and Taj Gray took turns guarding Mendez, forcing him into 6-of-20 shooting from the field.

Gray charged the Sooners in the second on the offensive end.

The 6-foot-9 junior finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds and complemented Lavender, who had a team-high 17 points.

Despite the loss, NU head coach Joe Miholich said by making the field of 65, the Purple Eagles "had (their) one shining moment."

"Let's never change this tournament. We don't need another .500 Big 12 or ACC team. We need more Niagaras," he said.

Sampson said the game was indicative of what the tournament represents.

"The thing about this tournament, people have their brackets and they discard some teams like they're trash…but every team is here for a reason, because they're good," he said.

-Kyle Kensing

Gonzaga doesn't let Winthrop steal slipper

The slipper may no longer fit, tenth-ranked Gonzaga, the No. 3 seed in the wide-open Albuquerque bracket of the 2005 NCAA tournament, but that doesn't mean the favored Bulldogs are ready to let anyone else have it yet.

Fourteen-seed Winthrop, a South Carolina school of less than 7,000 students, came close to pulling off the upset of the day in college hoops yesterday, but fell just short as time wound down in McKale Center.

Gonzaga trailed by as many as six, including a four-point halftime deficit to the underdog Eagles, but took control down the stretch to hold on for a 10-point win, 74-64.

"They made the plays that they needed to make to win the ballgame," said Winthrop head coach Gregg Marshall. "I don't think this was a 10-point game, and I think (Gonzaga) coach (Mark) Few feels the same way."

Few said he, his staff and his players were all impressed by Winthrop's tough play.

"There's a reason they won 27 games," Few said. "That's a great win for us. It was a tough, hard-fought battle, and I think we knew that going in."

Gonzaga sharpshooter Adam Morrison led the way for the Bulldogs in front of the McKale crowd of 13,751, scoring 27 points on 12-of-19 shooting from the floor. Morrison also grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists, playing all but one minute for the Bulldogs.

"The biggest thing for us was trying to play together as a team," Morrison said in an attempt to deflect attention away from his outing. "I think everyone was looking for someone to step up."

All-America candidate Ronny Turiaf chipped in a double-double for Gonzaga, scoring 13 points and pulling down 13 boards. Turiaf made just one field goal, however, doing the majority of his damage from the free-throw line. He hit 11-of-16 free throws while missing 3-of-4 from the floor.

"I couldn't really shoot the ball so I wanted to give my teammates the ball and get them going," Turiaf said.

Gonzaga's duo was not to be outdone, however. Winthrop guard Torrell Martin and forward Phillip Williams combined for 39 points and 11 rebounds in the loss, while connecting on 14-of-25 from the floor. Martin also hit 6-of-10 from beyond the arc.

"The first-half was textbook," Martin said, "just like coach taught us. We came out, we made plays, we executed rebounding. The second half we came out and we didn't do everything as well as we did the first half and we probably came up short."

-Brett Fera

Texas Tech drops UCLA in McKale "Knight-cap"

The first night of NCAA Tournament action concluded Thursday with No. 6 seed Texas Tech advancing in the Albuquerque Region, 78-66 over No. 11 UCLA.

Tech senior guard Ronald Ross, a former walk-on, ignited the Red Raiders with 28 points, seven rebounds, and three steals. Backcourt mate Jarrius Jackson added 19 points in the win.

"Our guards have been the hub of our offense all year long," Tech head coach Bob Knight said. "We're a team that's guard oriented right now on the offensive end."

While the guards scored the majority of the Red Raiders' points, those baskets came not only from the perimeter, but in the key as well. Tech scored 48 of its 78 points in the lane.

"I figured they might stay in the man-to-man all the time because that's what they play," Ross said. "It helped us out because we were able to score in the paint."

When the Red Raiders weren't controlling the lane on offense, they were owning it on the boards.

Texas Tech outrebounded UCLA 32-27, led by forward Devonne Giles' nine boards.

"I thought Giles got four or five really big defensive rebounds in the last seven minutes of the ball game," Knight said.

Leading the way for UCLA in the losing effort was Dijon Thompson. The 6-foot-8 wingman scored 22 points playing his final game in a Bruin uniform.

"I'm not satisfied with this season, but I am proud," he said. "Not many people expected us to get here."

The tournament appearance was UCLA's first since the 2002 season, Thompson's freshman year.

With the win, Tech advances to the second round to face No. 3 seed Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs advanced earlier in the evening with a 74-64 win against No. 14 Winthrop.

Tech and Gonzaga lock horns at McKale Center Saturday at 11:10 a.m. The winner will advance to next week's regional in Albuquerque.

-Kyle Kensing

Write a Letter to the Editor
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Breakdown: Defense does it in UA win over USU
UAB upsets LSU in Boise; Arizona up next
Utah, Oklahoma, Gonzaga, Texas Tech advance in McKale action
Sneakers and Sunshine just fine for Niagara, even if Cinderella's Slipper doesn't fit
UTEP Miner fans litter McKale, UA campus with orange and blue
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