Gonzaga returning to NCAA tournament

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 7, 2000

The Associated Press

The Zags are back in the NCAA tournament.

Tuesday, March 07, 2000

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The Zags are back in the NCAA tournament.

Gonzaga, the darling of the 1999 event when it came within one victory of the Final Four, won its second consecutive West Coast Conference tournament by beating Pepperdine 69-65 in overtime Monday night.

Casey Calvary scored 28 points, Ryan Floyd added 14 and Richie Frahm had seven of his 12 points in overtime for Gonzaga (24-8).

”I’m just happy to be back at the Dance,” Gonzaga’s Matt Santangelo said. ”It’s just nice to come down and get it out of the committee’s control and do it ourselves.”

Also known as the Bulldogs, Gonzaga fell to Connecticut by five points in the West Regional final last March. Connecticut went on to win the NCAA championship.

”This will be the first night that I’ll actually sleep for eight hours,” first-year coach Mark Few said. ”When the buzzer sounded, I felt a huge barbell lifted off my shoulders that’s been there since Oct. 15. The expectations on this team were so out of whack. We’ve tried to keep that off of them all year.”

Craig Lewis had 17 points for Pepperdine (24-8), which still hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament after it won the WCC’s regular-season title.

Elsewhere, Creighton beat Southwest Missouri State 57-45 for the Missouri Valley crown; North Carolina-Wilmington took Richmond 57-47 for the Colonial title; Iona outscored Siena 84-80 to win the MAAC; and Central Connecticut State routed Robert Morris 63-46 for the Northeast championship.

All four winners earned NCAA berths, but can expect low seedings.

Creighton 57, SW Missouri 45

At St. Louis, Ryan Sears hit four straight 3-pointers and keyed a stingy defense.

”We work on defense a lot,” Sears said after the Bears won the league’s automatic bid for the second straight year.

Creighton (23-9) made nine 3-pointers in snapping a 10-game winning streak by Southwest Missouri (22-10).

NC-Wilmington 57, Richmond 47

At Richmond, Danny Dahl’s desperation 3-point heave went in with 1:52 remaining, ending a Richmond rally and clinching North Carolina-Wilmington’s first NCAA tournament bid in 37 years of playing basketball.

”I got the ball off the loose rebound, saw there were only three seconds left on the shot clock and turned and threw it up,” Dahl said. ”It went in.”

The Seahawks (18-12) failed in their first four CAA championship appearances. The loss was the first for Richmond (18-12) in five CAA title games since 1985.

Iona 84, Siena 80

At Albany, the Gaels (20-10) won despite an injury to MAAC player of the year Tariq Kirksay, who hurt his hip in the first half.

Dyree Wilson, a sophomore who averaged 14 points during the regular season, scored 27 points on 12-for-17 shooting.

Marcus Faison scored 17 points for Siena (23-8).

Central Connecticut State 63, Robert Morris 46

At Trenton, N.J., the Blue Devils qualified for their first trip to the NCAAs just two years after going 4-22 in their first season as an NEC member. They are 25-5.

”This is the biggest thing to happen at the school,” said Rick Mickens, the Northeast Conference player of the year, who had 17 points, five rebounds and five steals. ”It’s a wonderful feeling.”

The key was Central Connecticut’s defense on Gene Nabors. He came into the final having scored 38 in the quarterfinals and 35 in the semifinals, hitting 26 of 43 shots from the field.

Nabors never got going and finished with five points on 2-of-15 shooting, with no points in the second half, for Robert Morris (18-12).