Gonzaga tops shorthanded U

Michael Dougherty

SEATTLE — Top rebounder, gone. Second leading scorer, gone. Three top reserves, gone. The heart of a depleted team, bigger than the Pacific Ocean.
But that huge heart was broken in half thanks to a 10-0 run by Gonzaga to close the game in the Bulldogs 75-63 win against the Gophers in the first round of the West Regional NCAA tournament in Seattle on Thursday.
Gonzaga (26-6) poured salt in the wounds of the Gophers men’s basketball program, thanks to some hot first-half shooting and a diamond-and-one defense that limited Gophers forward Quincy Lewis to eight points on 3-of-19 shooting.
Damaged greatly by the suspensions of seniors Miles Tarver, Kevin Clark and Jason Stanford and sophomore Antoine Broxsie because of alleged academic fraud, along with the loss of sophomore Kyle Sanden due to an ankle injury, the nine Gophers who dressed fought to close a 21-point second-half deficit to just two points, 65-63, with 1:43 left in the game before letting the game slip away at the end.
Minnesota redshirt freshman walk-on Dusty Rychart stepped up in the absence of the five players with a career-high 23 points and 17 rebounds. Rychart scored 15 points during a 28-11 second-half run for the Gophers (17-11).
“I think Rychart deserves a scholarship after that game,” Bulldogs coach Dan Monson said.
Rychart, who said he didn’t find out until Thursday morning that he would start, was almost enough to single-handedly lead the Gophers to victory.
“I told my players, `If we’re going to get beat, it is going to be somebody other than (Lewis),'” Monson said. “Our kids did a real good job on knowing where everyone else was.”
Monson said his team had to alter its defensive game plan after learning of the suspensions three hours before the game. He said the team had practiced a triangle-and-two defense to combat the potent pair of Lewis and Clark, but had to scramble to change it to the diamond-and-one upon learning of Clark’s suspension.
Gonzaga’s second-year coach put 5-foot-8 senior point guard Quentin Hall on the 6-7 Lewis, and the matchup contained the usually unstoppable Lewis, holding him 16 points below his season average and keeping him below double-digits for the second straight game.
“What they did, they had the little fellow (Hall) on me and he fronted me in the post, while they had a guy double behind me,” Lewis said.
Monson said he put the shorter Hall on Lewis because he “is the toughest competitor.” And while Monson was impressed with Hall’s performance, he said the rest of the team had to do the hard work in maneuvering in the matchup zone.
Ahead 45-26 at the half, the Bulldogs seemed like they were going to run away with the victory, their first in NCAA play, but Rychart’s tenaciousness, coupled with some Gonzaga tentativeness, allowed Minnesota to claw its way back into the game.
Bulldogs junior guard Richie Frahm scored 16 points in a first half that saw Gonzaga shoot 56 percent from the field, including 7-of-12 from beyond the arc. But Monson said Frahm, who was just 2-of-6 after intermission, missed some open shots that caused the rest of the team to be gun-shy.
“We really stood around hoping shots would go in and hoping somebody would do something,” Monson said.
Asked what he told his team once Minnesota closed the score to 65-63, Monson said, “I told Richie to please make one.”
And Frahm answered with a crucial three-pointer with 1:22 left that broke that big Gophers heart and ended their season, even though the coach and players said Frahm shouldn’t have taken the shot with 23 seconds left on the shot clock.
“That was a bad three at that time of the game,” Frahm said. “I’m still shocked I shot it, but I’m glad I knocked it down.”
Gonzaga, a university in Spokane, Wash., with an enrollment of 4,800 students, has a small but loyal following. And with almost 1,000 fans at Key Arena for the game, the Bulldogs had as much of a home-court advantage as a team can expect in the regionals.
When Frahm was asked what the fans back in Spokane were thinking about the team’s first NCAA win, he said, “I think they’re all here.”
The Bulldogs now move on to the second round to face Stanford, which beat Alcorn State 69-57 on Thursday.
The Gophers, meanwhile, will return home to face what could be an incredibly long off-season.

GONZAGA 45 30 — 75
GOPHERS 26 37 — 63

GOPHERS
Lewis 3-19 2-2 8, Rychart 10-18 3-4 23, Przybilla 1-2 2-2 4, Ohnstad 5-12 0-0 12, Nathaniel 3-10 1-4 8, Sinville 0-0 0-0 0, Simmons 3-8 0-0 6, Aune 1-2 0-1 2. Totals 26-71 (37 percent) 8-13 (62 percent) 63. Three-point field goals 3-14 (Lewis 0-5, Ohnstad 1-4, Nathaniel 1-2, Simmons 0-2, Rychart 0-1), Rebounds 46 (Rychart 17), Assists 14 (Ohnstad 4), Turnovers 15 (Ohnstad 5). Fouls 22. Fouled out: Przybilla, Nathaniel.

GONZAGA
Calvary 3-5 1-1 7, Eaton 5-9 2-4 12, Hall 3-8 3-4 10, Santangelo 5-12 2-2 14, Frahm 7-13 7-7 26, Floyd 2-4 0-0 5, Leasure 0-0 0-0 0, Spink 0-2 1-3 1, Nilson 0-0 0-2 0, Dench 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 25-55 (46 percent) 16-23 (70 percent) 75. Three-point field goals 9-21 (Frahm 5-11, Santangelo 2-4, Hall 1-4, Floyd 1-1, Calvary 0-1), Rebounds 33 (Calvary 11), Assists 14 (Santangelo 8), Turnovers 13 (Calvary 3). Fouls 16. Fouled out: none.