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Gonzaga Is Sweet Again

March 19, 2000|From Associated Press

Those tournament darlings from Gonzaga sure aren't one-year wonders.

The Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA's round of 16 for the second consecutive year, stunning second-seeded St. John's, 82-76, Saturday night in the West Regional at Tucson behind 26 points from Matt Santangelo.

Gonzaga, which made an amazing run to the West Regional final a year ago as a No. 10-seeded team (as it is this year), shouldn't be considered a sleeper anymore.

"We're still fighting for respect," Santangelo said. "Any label you put on us means we're still playing and we're still winning. That's what counts right now."

First-year Coach Mark Few hugged his players, who gathered at midcourt after the final buzzer and they waved to their fans who traveled from Spokane, Wash., for the regional games.

"I am so happy for these kids right now," said Few, who became Gonzaga's coach in July after Dan Monson went to Minnesota. "They have worked their entire basketball careers, and this is a great thing for them right now. These guys came through when the lights were on bright."

After defeating No. 2-seeded Stanford in the second round last year, Gonzaga didn't stage a wild celebration that many lower-seeded teams do after a major upset. The Bulldogs are showing the same confidence this year.

"When we are old and retired we will look back and get amazed at what we've done," said Richie Frahm, who scored all 10 of his points in the second half after getting 31 in the first round against Louisville. "It took until last summer to realize what we did last year. We don't plan on going home any time soon."

Gonzaga (26-8) will play No. 6 Purdue in the regional semifinals in Albuquerque Thursday.

St. John's finished a turmoil-ridden season at 25-8. The Red Storm overcame two suspensions to leading scorer Erick Barkley and a fight between Barkley and second-leading scorer Bootsy Thornton at halftime of a Big East tournament game to get its highest regional seeding since being No. 1 in the Midwest in 1986.

But St. John's couldn't overcome Gonzaga's efficient offense and effective zone defense.

"We were so souped up about getting to the Final Four that this really hurts," senior guard Chudney Gray said. "They made all the shots they needed to. Whenever they needed one, Santangelo hit it. We didn't get the stops we usually get."

Santangelo made six of 10 three-point shots, including three in the final eight minutes as the Bulldogs broke a 54-54 tie and took control.

Barkley led St. John's with 21 points, but Thornton, who had topped 20 points in seven of his last nine games, was held to 12 on three-of-13 shooting.

"I think they've got a really good chance of going to [the Final Four]," St. John's Coach Mike Jarvis said. "There is a time and a place for everything and maybe this is theirs. It wasn't meant for us. Maybe it's meant for Gonzaga."

Purdue 66, Oklahoma 62--Jaraan Cornell again provided the late-game heroics for the No. 6 Boilermakers (23-9) as they survived a physical game with the No. 3 Sooners (27-7) to reach the round of 16 for the third consecutive year.

With 43.7 seconds left, Cornell was fouled on a three-point shot and made all three free throws to give Purdue the lead for good at 63-60. He scored 13 of his 15 points in the final nine minutes--including both of his three-point baskets.

"It's like putting in golf," Purdue Coach Gene Keady said. "You get that first one and then they all start falling. He did the same thing against Dayton the other day."

In Purdue's 62-61 victory over Dayton in the first round, Cornell had all three of his three-point baskets in the final nine minutes.

Purdue and Oklahoma both played relentless man-to-man defense, with nearly every shot being contested. The Sooners made only two of 19 three-point shots after connecting on 10 of 21 in the first round against Winthrop. The Boilermakers weren't much better in going four for 19 from behind the arc, but made 18 of 23 free throws.

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