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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Zags On Top Of The World Gonzaga Beats No.5 Clemson

It’s too early in the season to let euphoria take over, but the Gonzaga University men’s basketball team is headed for home, riding on a cloud.

The unheralded Bulldogs, shooting brilliantly and pursuing the ball relentlessly, scorched fifth-ranked Clemson 84-71 Sunday to win the Top of the World Classic.

Gonzaga shocked Clemson by pouring in 14 of its 19 3-point attempts and shooting 68.3 percent overall. The shocking victory gave rookie head coach Dan Monson, trying to mask his elation behind common sense, a perfect 4-0 record.

“It’s a great recognition win for our program,” said Monson. “but we’ve got a lot of improvement to do.

Nobody plays good enough in November to win their league.”

Gonzaga used successive victories over Tulsa, Mississippi State and Clemson to win the tournament. All three were marked by excellent shooting.

Sunday, guards Matt Santangelo and Quinton Hall did most of the damage, scoring 19 and 18 points respectively. Santangelo connected on 5 of 7 3-point tries. Hall, who came off the bench, made 3 of 4. Each had six assists.

Conversely, Clemson (3-1) hit only 2 of its 13 tries from behind the arc and the Tigers shot a moderate 50.8 percent overall for the game.

“When you shoot the ball well, you look good,” Monson said, “and we really shot well.”

Axel Dench, 6-foot-11 sophomore center, gave the Bulldogs the first basket of the game. Mike Leasure’s 3-pointer broke a 2-2 tie, and the Bulldogs never trailed.

Leading 11-10 with 13 minutes, 44 seconds remaining in the first half, Gonzaga scored 24 of the next 34 points to make it 35-20. As Monson rotated his top three guards, Hall contributed seven points and Santangelo and Richie Frahm each hit a pair of 3-pointers.

The Bulldogs led 47-33 at halftime.

Clemson pulled within six points, capping a 20-5 run at 73-67, on Greg Buckner’s jumper with 3:52 to play in the game. However, Hall’s final 3-pointer, at 2:10, made it 78-69, and the Bulldogs, able to break Clemson’s press, wrapped up their victory with six foul shots.

Buckner finished with 19 points, three more than Harold Jamison.

“I think our kids really did a great job of three days of playing hard and concentrating,” Monson said, sounding pleased, but not shocked. “You have to approach every game like you can win. If you don’t do that, you’re not a competitor.”

Monson admitted it would have been easy to be intimidated by Clemson’s large front line.

“We really focused on this being about us and not letting them dictate our game,” he said. “Physically, we got dominated a bit, but we just tried to do the best job we could of making them earn their points.”

Monson confessed the Bulldogs may have had one advantage.

“The other teams didn’t know much about us and, on short preparation, it was tough for some people to guard us,” he said. “We’re not going to surprise people from here on out.”