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THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 2009, 10:32 P.M.

Zag notebook

Matt Bouldin will play as a free agent with the Chicago Bulls. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
Matt Bouldin will play as a free agent with the Chicago Bulls. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)

Just filed this notebook from Gonzaga's 77-64 NCAA tournament win over Akron on Thursday.

Read the unedited version below.

I'll post John Blanchette's column in the morning.


By Jim Meehan

Staff writer

PORTLANDAkron men’s basketball coach Keith Dambrot has a pretty fair eye for talent. And he saw a lot of it wearing Gonzaga uniforms Thursday.

“I think I’m a pretty good judge,” said Dambrot, who coached LeBron James in high school. “That’s the most individually talented No. 4 seed you’ll see. Those guys are pros. I kind of had a tendency to judge people by LeBron. I don’t think they’re LeBron, but they’re pros.”

Gonzaga defeated the Zips 77-64 in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Rose Garden. Four Zags reached double figures, led by senior forward Josh Heytvelt’s 22 points.

While Dambrot was impressed with Gonzaga’s talent level, Zips senior forward Nate Linhart pointed out the Zags’ experience.

“They’ve been there before,” Linhart said. “And they knew what they were doing. They had the confidence to push through our storm.”

Gonzaga has four seniors and junior Matt Bouldin, a three-year starter, in its eight-man rotation. The Zips typically use 10 players, including three freshmen and three sophomores.

Defense rests

Gonzaga had problems containing the Zips’ patient offense in the first half, but the Bulldogs clamped down in the closing 20 minutes. The Bulldogs opened the second half in a zone, which worked for a couple of possessions.

“They had their rhythm in the first half and we needed to try to disrupt them a little bit,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “So we tried (zone) and it worked a little bit. But our bread and butter has been our man defense all year and that’s what got us going in that stretch run.”

The Zips made just seven field goals in the second half, three of those in final 2:08.

Bouncing back

Heytvelt’s fifth NCAA tournament game went a lot smoother than his previous four. Heytvelt made 7 of 12 field-goal attempts and 7 of 8 at the foul line to finish with 22 points in 36 minutes. In his previous four NCAA games, Heytvelt scored a total of 15 points in 39 minutes.

“Our guards were doing such a great job of coming off screens and making jumpers, it opened up feeds inside for easy baskets,” Heytvelt said.

And vice versa.

“When Josh hunkers down in the post, he’s a big body and he’s easy to find sometimes,” Matt Bouldin said. “Once he gets going, it really starts opening things up.”

Crowd control

The Zags again had the benefit of a partisan crowd. It wasn’t quite as loud as the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas for the WCC tournament, but the volume went up considerably when Gonzaga went on a 19-1 run to take control in the second half.

“The atmosphere was great, kind of like the Kennel a little bit,” senior guard Jeremy Pargo said.

“Zag nation is powerful everywhere,” Few said, “but obviously you can really feel it in the Northwest. We’re staying in the same hotel that we stay at when we play the University of Portland. It’s comfortable for our guys.”


Early in the second half, Akron’s Chris McKnight lost a contact lens under the basket near Gonzaga’s bench. He couldn’t locate the lens, but Gonzaga’s Ira Brown stepped on the court during a timeout to point it out. “You could really see it from the bench,” Brown said. McKnight was back in action a few minutes later. … Heytvelt said his sister, Heather, made it in time for the game after traveling from Korea. “When she landed, she was like, ‘Hey, I don’t leave Korea for five more minutes,’ because it’s such a time change,” Heytvelt said. … Few helped a reporter who stumbled when asking if the coach would prefer facing Western Kentucky or … who exactly was that other team? “Illinois,” interjected Few, as the reporter frantically searched through his notes. Few added that he had no preference. Western Kentucky later knocked off Illinios. … Akron utilized so many players that the Rose Garden scoreboard couldn’t list them all. The scoreboard only has room for nine and the Zips had played 10 in the first half. … Mid-American Conference teams are 0-6 in the last six NCAA tournaments. Akron is still searching for its first NCAA win. The Zips lost to Michigan in 1986, their only other appearance in the tournament.




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Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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