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Tight Race Overshadows Farewell Final Home Weekend For Retiring Coach Carries Extra Weight

Dan Fitzgerald knows that he and his Gonzaga University men’s basketball team are in for one emotional weekend.

He just hopes that the importance of the Bulldogs’ upcoming West Coast Conference matchups against San Francisco and San Diego will be at the heart of his players’ emotions - rather than the fact that Fitzgerald will be coaching his final two games at Martin Centre.

“We’ve got to make sure that our guys don’t get caught up in all the other stuff,” said Fitzgerald, who has his surprising Bulldogs at 14-8 overall and tied with Santa Clara for the WCC lead at 7-3.

“There have been some special moments in this building, but I think because we’re playing good and we’re so much in the thick of the (WCC race), that will kind of take precedence over the other distractions.”

Fitzgerald, who will step down as head coach at season’s end and devote his full attention to his duties as the school’s athletic director, will coach the last of his 208 games on the GU campus when the Bulldogs face San Diego (12-10, 4-6) at 5:30 Saturday night.

Several former players, including a couple who played for Fitzgerald back in 1968 when he was coaching Danile Murphy High School in Los Angeles, will be on hand to say farewell - along with an expected sellout crowd of more than 4,000.

But before that, he must deal with a salty San Francisco team (11-11, 6-4) that invades Martin Centre tonight at 7 with ideas of overtaking the Bulldogs and Santa Clara in the WCC standings.

“Certainly, because they mean a lot to us and because of the finality of the situation, the emotions of both of these games will be something,” said Fitzgerald, who is 166-40 at home after going undefeated in Martin Centre in 1993 (13-0) and 1994 (14-0). “But we’ve got to make sure that our players don’t try so hard that they don’t control those emotions.

“We’ve talked to them about that and about how good competitors channel those desires.”

Rollins rebounds

Gonzaga’s Lorenzo Rollins, who broke out of his recent shooting slump by scoring 42 points in the Bulldogs’ two wins over Portland last week, has been named co-player of the week in the WCC, along with St. Mary’s Eric Schraeder.

Rollins, a senior guard, had made just 43 of 124 field-goal attempts in his previous nine games. But he went 9 of 12 and scored 18 points in last Wednesday’s 79-67 home win over the Pilots, before closing the week with a 10 for 13 effort that produced 24 points in Saturday’s 76-59 road win in Portland.

Newman to step down

Sacramento State coach Don Newman surprised his players this week when he announced he’ll step down at the end of the season.

The former Idaho star and Washington State assistant is 20-108 in five-plus seasons with the Hornets - not quite what the fiery Newman had in mind when he boldly promised to one day be a 20-win coach.

“I hold no regrets about coming here,” the 39-year-old Newman said. “For me, it’s like having to run three legs of the relay and now passing the baton.”

The Hornets (3-17) are in their first season as a Big Sky Conference member.

Boseman conquers the best

In leading USC’s surprising charge to the top of the Pac-10 standings, Stais Boseman is commanding consideration for conference player-of-the-year honors.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior guard is easily the best defender in the Pac-10, as his performance against Cal’s Ed Gray showed over the weekend.

Boseman was the main reason Gray, who leads the Pac-10 in scoring with more than 24 points per game, managed just 14 through the first 35 minutes of USC’s 93-85 win Saturday.

Gray scored eight points in the final 5 minutes, long after Boseman and the Trojans had shifted into cruise control.

Boseman’s latest conquest gives him a 3-0 mark against the best offensive players in the Pac-10 - before Saturday, he had contained Arizona’s Michael Dickerson and WSU’s Isaac Fontaine.

USC won all three games.

Boseman was named Pac-10 co-player of the week after averaging 22.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, five assists and 3.5 steals per game in wins over Stanford and Cal.

Nameck visits ailing mother

Washington State play-by-play radio announcer Bud Nameck remains in Reno, Nev., visiting his mother, who is seriously ill.

Nameck missed the Cougars’ last two games and said Wednesday he is unsure if he’ll return in time for Saturday’s game at Washington.

Dave Grosby, who filled in for Nameck last weekend in Eugene, Ore., will work the UW game if Nameck is unavailable. Grosby is a talk-show host at Seattle’s KJR.

EWU’s Lewis hurting

Eastern Washington could be without 6-foot-10 junior center Kevin Lewis for tonight’s 7:05 Big Sky Conference game against Cal State Northridge at Reese Court.

Lewis, averaging 11.1 points and 4.6 rebounds, injured a knee in the first half of Saturday’s 97-83 loss at Cal State Sacramento and was to undergo testing Wednesday.

He might also miss Saturday night’s 7:05 home matchup against Northern Arizona, perhaps the most surprising Division I team in the country.

The Lumberjacks (17-3 overall, 10-0 Big Sky) have already won 11 more games than last year and have produced the biggest turnaround of any D-I school this year. They are bidding to join Weber State, which went 15-0 against Big Sky opposition in 1968-69, as the only teams not to lose a regular-season league game.

The Eagles (6-15, 2-9), who lost at NAU 79-62 in Flagstaff, Ariz., earlier in the year, have dropped seven straight, but hope to end their skid tonight against Northridge (8-12, 4-6), which has lost four in a row.

Title on the line for Whits

No. 16-ranked Whitworth College could all but clinch the Northwest Conference of Independent Colleges regular-season men’s basketball title this weekend with road wins over No. 12 Pacific University and No. 15 Lewis & Clark College.

The Pirates and Pacific are tied for the NCIC lead at 9-2, just 1-1/2 games ahead of Lewis & Clark, which is 8-4. But recent history doesn’t bode well for the Pirates, who haven’t beaten either of the NCIC contenders on the road since the 1991-92 season.

Should the Bucs sweep, they would return home next weekend to entertain Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran in Whitworth Fieldhouse, where they have won 30 consecutive games. Whitworth plays Pacific on Friday, Lewis & Clark on Saturday.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Area leaders Scoring Playing, school FG-FGA FT-FTA 3pt. Avg. Isaac Fontaine, WSU 163-331 115-149 56 21.6 Jason Jackman, UI 152-279 115-144 0 17.5 Ben Heimerman, Whit 118-178 100-126 2 16.9 Lorenzo Rollins, GU 134-293 63-79 32 16.5 Carlos Daniel, WSU 119-232 82-119 0 14.5 Nate Williams, Whit 80-145 47-53 32 14.1 Jeff Mix, Whit 109-180 45-66 4 13.4 Matt Santangelo, GU 103-225 46-67 38 13.2 Karim Scott, EWU 100-186 47-81 0 11.8 Bakari Hendrix, GU 103-182 52-75 0 11.7

Rebounding Heimerman, Whit, 9.0 (179); Daniel, WSU, 8.5 (188); Mix, Whit, 7.3 (145); Jackman, UI, 6.1 (146); Scott, EWU, 6.0 (127); Hendrix, 6.0 (131).

Assists Sean Weston, Whit 4.5 (90); Santangello, GU, 4.4 (96); Travis King, EWU, 3.6 (75); Williams, Whit, 3.5 (60); Gabe Jones, Whits 3.3 (65).

Assists Weston, Whit, 1.9 (38); Derrick Elliott, 1.8 (34); Reggie Rose, UI, 1.8 (25); Rollins, GU, 1.7 (37); Jones, Whit, 1.7 (33).

Schedule Tonight: San Francisco at Gonzaga, 7 p.m.; North Texas at Idaho, 7:05; Cal State Northridge at Eastern Washington, 7:05. Friday: Whitworth at Pacific University, 7 p.m. Saturday: San Diego at Gonzaga, 5:30 p.m.; Washington State at Washington, 7 p.m.; Northern Arizona at Eastern Washington, 7:05 p.m.; New Mexico State at Idaho, 7:05 p.m.; Whitworth at Lewis & Clark College, 8 p.m.

This sidebar appeared with the story: Area leaders Scoring Playing, school FG-FGA FT-FTA 3pt. Avg. Isaac Fontaine, WSU 163-331 115-149 56 21.6 Jason Jackman, UI 152-279 115-144 0 17.5 Ben Heimerman, Whit 118-178 100-126 2 16.9 Lorenzo Rollins, GU 134-293 63-79 32 16.5 Carlos Daniel, WSU 119-232 82-119 0 14.5 Nate Williams, Whit 80-145 47-53 32 14.1 Jeff Mix, Whit 109-180 45-66 4 13.4 Matt Santangelo, GU 103-225 46-67 38 13.2 Karim Scott, EWU 100-186 47-81 0 11.8 Bakari Hendrix, GU 103-182 52-75 0 11.7

Rebounding Heimerman, Whit, 9.0 (179); Daniel, WSU, 8.5 (188); Mix, Whit, 7.3 (145); Jackman, UI, 6.1 (146); Scott, EWU, 6.0 (127); Hendrix, 6.0 (131).

Assists Sean Weston, Whit 4.5 (90); Santangello, GU, 4.4 (96); Travis King, EWU, 3.6 (75); Williams, Whit, 3.5 (60); Gabe Jones, Whits 3.3 (65).

Assists Weston, Whit, 1.9 (38); Derrick Elliott, 1.8 (34); Reggie Rose, UI, 1.8 (25); Rollins, GU, 1.7 (37); Jones, Whit, 1.7 (33).

Schedule Tonight: San Francisco at Gonzaga, 7 p.m.; North Texas at Idaho, 7:05; Cal State Northridge at Eastern Washington, 7:05. Friday: Whitworth at Pacific University, 7 p.m. Saturday: San Diego at Gonzaga, 5:30 p.m.; Washington State at Washington, 7 p.m.; Northern Arizona at Eastern Washington, 7:05 p.m.; New Mexico State at Idaho, 7:05 p.m.; Whitworth at Lewis & Clark College, 8 p.m.

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