Saturday , Dec , 02 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Gonzaga and Texas lock horns in Hall of Fame Challenge

Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) – The 22nd-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs will take on
the Texas Longhorns as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge
this afternoon from the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix.

Mark Few’s Zags have won seven of their first eight games this season and
extended the nation’s longest current homecourt winning streak to 44 games with
Thursday’s 69-51 win over Portland State. The Bulldogs have once again
exceeded expectations in the early stages of the season despite some
hefty losses from last year’s stellar squad.

Texas also has just one loss on the young campaign, falling to Michigan
State in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic in New York on November 16th.
The team has responded with three straight wins, including a 40-point rout
of Texas Southern on Tuesday (90-50). The second half of this event will
pit Arizona against Illinois.

This is just the second all-time meeting between these two teams, with Gonzaga
posting a 67-64 win in the 2001 Great Alaska Shootout.

The Bulldogs played down to the competition against Portland State, shooting
just 41 percent from the floor, but the team was still able to get the victory
thanks to great defensive play. The Bulldogs held the Vikings to just 31.7
percent shooting in the game, forcing 18 turnovers, resulting in 23 points for
the home team. Standout guard Derek Raivio led the charge with 20 points,
including 4-of-7 from behind the arc. Forwards Josh Heytvelt and Sean Mallon
did the rest with 17 and 14 points, respectively. Heytvelt finished with a
double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds in the victory. It may be a new team in
Spokane, but these Bulldogs are still getting it done at both ends of the
court. The team is shooting a solid .490 from the field, while putting up 80.8
ppg. Defensively, the squad is yielding just 62.1 ppg on .360 shooting. The
team also boasts of a +8.5 rebounding advantage and is forcing 14.4 turnovers
per contest. Raivio has been outstanding with his perimeter touch, averaging a
hefty 18.9 ppg, while delivering on over 45 percent of his long range attempts
(21-of-46). Heytvelt has been a perfect complement in the frontcourt,
averaging 17.3 ppg, while leading the way on the boards (7.5 rpg). Point guard
Jeremy Pargo is flirting with double digits (9.9 ppg) and leads the team with
3.5 apg.

The Longhorns will have no problem hanging with Gonzaga in a shootout, as the
team certainly has the weapons to win such a game. Texas is averaging a hefty
85.7 ppg, but allowing just 59.8. A lot of that has to do with questionable
competition of late, but beating up on inferior foes is what good teams are
supposed to do. Rick Barnes’ best weapon at either end of the floor is
freshman sensation Kevin Durant. The 6-9 phenom leads the team in scoring
(22.5 ppg), rebounding (9.5 rpg) and blocked shots (16), but is so much more
than a physical low post threat. He is also shooting .457 from behind the arc,
converting 16-of-35 three-point opportunities. Sophomore guard A.J. Abrams can
also fill up a basket, pouring in 19.7 ppg, while knocking down a scorching
51.7 percent from long range (31-of-60). One of, if not the youngest starting
five in the nation, Texas runs with four freshmen and a sophomore to start
games. Durant, who has scored 20+ points in every game this season, led the
way against Texas Southern with 22 points. Abrams checked in with 20 points,
while freshman guard D.J. Augustin and freshman center Dexter Pittman added 10
points apiece.