Making a name for itself
Gonzaga to play for Elite Eight berth -- and respect
Posted: Sunday March 14, 1999 10:26 PM
SEATTLE (AP) -- Listen to coach Dan Monson: "It's pronounced Gone-ZAG-uh."
It's a name college basketball fans across America are learning to love.
The Zags, best known as the alma mater of John Stockton and Bing Crosby, were the darlings of Seattle, knocking off Minnesota in the first round, then stunning Stanford, the West's No. 2 seed, 82-74 on Saturday.
Now the team from across the Cascades in Spokane, Wash., the No. 10 seed, heads to Phoenix and a regional semifinal game Thursday against Florida. Gators coach Billy Donovan already is wary.
"To me, this may be the best team that we will go against as far as handling, passing and catching the basketball," he said.
Those are just the attributes that are necessary to combat the incessant pressure that Florida used to wear down upstart Weber State 82-74 in overtime on Saturday.
"I just think that at this point in time seeding does not make a difference. Who's supposed to win and who's not supposed to win, you can throw that out the window," Donovan said. "The teams that are still alive are good basketball teams."
Gonzaga (27-6) had played exactly one NCAA Tournament game before this year. But coach Don Monson had argued all week that this was a special team, a team that needn't feel overwhelmed against any opponent.
"This is not a fluke situation for our team," Monson said. "Our kids believed they were going to win that game. I've said that all year. We haven't gone into a game this season where our kids didn't think they were going to win. And that's a really hard mentality to get in when it says Gonzaga on your jersey."
All 10 players that Monson used on Saturday contributed significantly. The Bulldogs' front line was overmatched on paper, but Gonzaga outrebounded Stanford 47-33.
Matt Santangelo, the savvy guard who is sort of a co-playmaker, scored 22 points. Richie Frahm, the best of a stable of sharpshooters, had an off day from the field but still had 15 points and seven rebounds -- and was 8-for-9 from the foul line.
Then there's Bahamian point guard Quentin Hall, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. His 3-pointer with 3 1/2 minutes to play was the decisive dagger.
"Quentin Hall has been the difference in this program the last couple of years," Monson said. "In my 11 years at Gonzaga, he is the best competitor we ever had."
The Bulldogs are using their snub by the NCAA last year as motivation.
"This has been a yearlong journey for us," Santangelo said. "Every day, that was our thought process. You want to be in this tournament. You want to have success. That's all culminating right now, all that hard work and dedication."
Against Florida (22-8), the No. 6 seed, Gonzaga faces a team that is just flexing its muscles in its third season under Donovan, who learned the constant-pressure style when he played for Rick Pitino at Providence.
The Gators count heavily on four freshmen, most notably guard Teddy Dupay and Mike Miller, but no one appreciates the trip to Phoenix more than seniors Eddie Shannon and Greg Stolt, who endured three losing seasons before this year."We have a great shot to go even farther," Shannon said. "I don't want to stop at the Sweet 16 right now, I'm having the time of my life. And I just know with the talent and potential on this team, I don't want to stop in Phoenix."
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