Morrison leads Gonzaga past Xavier
Salt Lake City, UT (Sports Network) – Adam Morrison scored 35 points on 11-
of-21 shooting and also dished out four assists to lead the No. 3 seed
Gonzaga Bulldogs to a comeback win over the 14th-seeded Xavier Musketeers,
79-75, in a first-round game of the Oakland bracket in the NCAA Tournament.
J.P. Batista added 18 points and eight rebounds and Derek Raivio and Errol
Knight scored seven points apiece for the Bulldogs (28-3), who will meet the
sixth-seeded Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday. Gonzaga’s 19-game winning streak
is the longest in the country.
“That was a heck of a college basketball game,” said Gonzaga head coach Mark
Few. “That was two teams that were slugging it out to stay alive. A team
(Xavier) that athletic and that skilled and that well coached and that tough
on the defensive side of the ball looked like a five, a four or a three.”
Stanley Burrell paced the Musketeers (21-11) with 22 points and five assists
while Justin Cage netted 16 and pulled down five boards in the loss. Xavier
had won four straight games in the Atlantic-10 Tournament to make the Big
Dance. Josh Duncan finished with 11 points in the defeat.
Xavier was playing without its leading scorer, Brian Thornton, who broke his
ankle and missed the final four games. Thornton averaged 15.3 points and
almost seven rebounds in 21 games.
“We set out this year and had three goals; to win a conference championship,
to win 20 or more games and to get to the NCAA Tournament,” said Xavier head
coach Sean Miller. “We got all three. I am here to tell you that the road
getting here was really, really difficult.”
Gonzaga scored eight of the first 13 points in the second half and tied the
game at 44 on Raivio’s driving layup, but the Musketeers countered with a 13-5
run, including threes from Cage, Johnny Wolf and Burrell, to move in front
57-49 with nearly 10 minutes to play. The Bulldogs went cold from the floor,
converting three field goals in almost 8 1/2 minutes to help fuel the run.
David Pendergraft’s bucket began a 10-4 Gonzaga rally, capped by Knight’s
three, to narrow the gap to 61-59 with almost seven minutes remaining.
Wolf’s shot from beyond the arc pushed the score to 69-63, but the Bulldogs
closed the contest with a 16-6 surge over the final 4 1/2 minutes. Morrison’s
three-pointer gave the Zags a 72-71 lead, their first since 19-18 in the
Morrison, the nation’s leading scorer, put the team on his back and tallied 11
of Gonzaga’s final 16 points.
The Zags hit five of their first seven field goals and jumped out to an early
11-5 lead. However, Justin Doellman drained a trey and Duncan connected on a
pair from the line to make the score 11-10.
Gonzaga extended its lead to 16-10 as Morrison scored five straight with a
three-pointer and two from the stripe.
With Gonzaga leading 16-10, the Musketeers corrected their shooting woes and
reeled off a 23-8 run. A pair of Burrell free throws gave the Musketeers a
20-19 edge, and Wolf’s layup capped the run to give Xavier a 33-24 advantage.
Over the final five minutes of the half the Bulldogs outscored Xavier 12-6 and
cut the deficit to 39-36 at the half. The Musketeers shot 2-of-14 from the
floor to start the game but responded by going 8-of-12 from the field to close
Gonzaga connected on 52 percent of its shots, including 61 percent in the
second half, while Xavier shot 41 percent from the floor…Wolf and Doellman
finished with 10 points apiece…The Zags are 12-2 this season when trailing
at the half…The Musketeers won the only other meeting, 87-82, between these
two teams in 1960.