March 24, 2006 in Sports

Fouled, foiled

By and The Spokesman-Review
 
Brian Plonka photo

Gonzaga’s J.P. Batista watches his last-second shot miss the mark.
(Full-size photo)

OAKLAND, Calif. – Gonzaga’s J.P. Batista felt he was fouled on the turnover he committed in the final seconds of Thursday night’s 73-71 NCAA Tournament loss to UCLA.

But the mild-mannered senior center refused to badmouth the officials in his final post-game interview as a Zag.

“I’m not going to sit here and complain about fouls,” he said when asked about getting stripped of the basketball by the Bruins’ Cedric Bozeman with just less than 10 seconds left in the game. “I thought he fouled me, but, hey. They didn’t call it so you’ve just got to keep going.

“Unfortunately, we lost the game.”

After Bozeman knocked the ball from Batista’s hand, his teammate Jordan Farmar recovered it and fed Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for what proved to be the game-winning basket.

“Ced and I were just trying to create a lot of pressure,” Farmar said. “Ced knocked the ball loose, I picked it up and got it to Luc, who finished it.

“The pass was a little high, but thank God, Luc is 6-foot-7 with a 7-2 wingspan.”

Morrison mum on future

Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison, who is expected to be a lottery pick in this summer’s NBA Draft – should he forgo his final year of eligibility at GU – refused to tip his hand on what his future might hold.

He scored 24 points Thursday and finished the season averaging 28.1 points to edge Duke’s J.J. Redick for the scoring title. Redick scored 26.8 points per game in his senior season, but he and the top-seeded Blue Devils also were eliminated Thursday in a loss to Louisiana State.

Following Thursday’s loss to UCLA, the 6-foot-8 junior scoring sensation, said he planned to return to Spokane and map out a strategy with his parents.

“It’s going to be a family decision,” he said. “I’ve got to hear from the people who write the checks. I’m going to go to Spokane and not do anything for awhile.

“I have no idea what I’m going to do.”

Huddling up

Mark Few congregated with his players near mid-court following Thursday’s emotional defeat.

When asked why he did so, and what he told his team, Few explained, “Basically, I just wanted to kind of protect them a little bit. It was a vulnerable moment there where they were obviously, you know, devastated.

“For some, their college careers are over, and I think it’s important to get with your family. I told them to make sure you enjoy the good times, because we had a lot of them this year. Don’t focus on those last 20 seconds.”

The last shotmaker?

That’s been Adam Morrison for the Zags all season long, and certainly he expected to get the ball for Gonzaga’s last desperate try to tie or win the game after UCLA had taken a two-point lead with 1.9 seconds to play.

But instead David Pendergraft’s long pass found center J.P. Batista, who managed to get off a turn-around 16-footer that looked like it might have a chance before it caromed off the rim – and Morrison wasn’t about to second-guess the choice.

“Obviously, I was calling for the ball,” he said. “But we got a great shot with J.P. down way farther than I was. I mean, I wouldn’t have it any other way. J.P. had a really good shot at it to tie it.”

Clutch shots, and misses

To Gonzaga coach Mark Few, the difference at the end was simple – the shots UCLA made under duress, and the shots his Bulldogs missed.

“We had three good looks that we usually make,” he said, noting a couple by Morrison and a wide-open 3-pointer that Derek Raivio that bonked off the iron. “Then at the other end … if you look at their field goal percentage, they got a couple of putbacks, scramble plays that hurt us a little bit. They stepped up and made big shots – (Jordan) Farmer had a big runner.”

Indeed, the Bruins made all three of their final shots count – a rebound basket by Mbah a Moute, Farmar’s running hook and a layup by Mbah a Moute after Cedric Bozeman and Farmar stripped the ball from Batista with 10 seconds to play.

Buzzer beaters

Gonzaga’s winning streak came to an end after 20 games – the longest of the season. That distinction now belongs to the Bruins, who have a 10-game winning streak. … Only two schools have finished each of the last seven seasons with fewer than 10 losses: Gonzaga and Duke, which was also bounced from the Sweet 16 on Thursday. … UCLA will face Memphis on Saturday for the right to go to the Final Four – their first NCAA Tournament meeting since the Bruins beat the Tigers 87-66 to win the 1973 championship in St. Louis. Bill Walton had 44 points and 13 rebounds in that game. … Derek Raivio had a season-high six assists for the Bulldogs.


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