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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Arena’s NCAA subregional turns into tripleheader

Gonzaga got to play in Spokane after all. Though the Zags’ 96-95 double-overtime loss to Arizona took place in Salt Lake City, an estimated 5,000 fans stuck around the Spokane Arena after Saturday’s two NCAA Tournament games to root on GU. Arena management put the game on the big screen and on the concourse televisions, turned up the CBS sound and let Spokane live and die with every shot. The game was joined with about 4 minutes left in regulation and the telecast pulled thousands of fans back down the aisles and into the recently vacated seats. As the game wound down, the fans cheered loudly on every Gonzaga possession, groaned when Arizona scored and even screamed at the officials. “C’mon, ref, get it right,” someone yelled from near the top of the first deck. After Gonzaga’s Blake Stepp hit a 3-pointer with 1:11 left in the first overtime, an amazingly loud cheer exploded, followed by the rhythmic stomping of feet. During a timeout, when an NCAA logo came on the screen instead of commercials, the crowd began chanting “Let’s go, Bulldogs. Let’s go, Bulldogs,” as if they were in The Kennel. Only The Kennel couldn’t hold this crowd. And a Kennel crowd wouldn’t include Ryan Lutzen and Kevin Doornek, University of Wisconsin band members who stuck around to watch. “We want to see Gonzaga win,” Lutzen said. “They are an amazing tournament team, and we would love to see them beat Arizona. We all love upsets.” They didn’t get to see one, despite the Arena crowd’s help. When, with 1:23 left in the second overtime, there was a contested change of possession call that went against GU, boos rained down loud enough to be heard in Utah. And, when Stepp’s shot at the end fell off, the collective groan was almost as loud. Then the crowd began to file out. Again. Playing through Not every college basketball team has a two-time U.S. Open golf champion following it. No, not Stanford and that Woods guy. We’re talking about Wisconsin and Andy North. North was sitting in the second row of the University of Wisconsin rooting section Saturday at the Arena, wearing a bright red sweater and cheering his beloved Badgers on in the NCAA Tournament. “I haven’t seen them much lately but I saw them a lot early in the year,” the 1978 and 1985 U.S. Open champion said. “I have to work next week, (at the TPC for ESPN) so I won’t be able to see them, but let’s get through today first before we start talking about that.” He can start talking now after the Badgers gained a 61-60 victory over Tulsa. They will play next on Thursday in Minneapolis against the today’s Kentucky-Utah winner. North’s Wisconsin roots are deep. Born in Torpe, he left to play his collegiate golf at the University of Florida. But he is a Madison guy, and even assisted the Badgers football staff when Dave McClain was head coach. And North has known Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan for 25 years, dating back to when Ryan was his neighbor while a UW assistant before taking the University of Wisconsin-Platteville head coaching position. Two bits, four bits, six bits … Cheerleading sure has changed. Gone are the petite, smiling, big-haired snobs of “Animal House,” replaced by athletic cheer squads who could probably line up and compete with your grandfather’s hoop team. Take the Wisconsin group for example. The guys who do the lifting - and throwing - look as if they have done more bench presses than the guards on the basketball team. The women, while in most cases still petite and smiling, are athletic too. They have to be, with the contortions they put their bodies through and the heights they reach when tossed. The UConn cheerleaders may have to get FAA clearance before they perform, with the heights they reach on their tosses. Then there was the Wisconsin-Weber State battle on Thursday. Not the basketball game, but the competition to create the best “W” with cheerleaders. The Wisconsin team won that, too. By the way, if you don’t know what two bits are, check the bottom of this notebook. Rooting for our team When public address announcer Bud Nameck introduced the national anthem before the first game, he read a statement from NCAA president Miles Brand concerning the war in Iraq. When Nameck got to the part about support for U.S. troops in the Gulf, the Arena erupted in applause and cheers. Two-bit answer As your grandfather could tell you, two bits is old-fashioned lingo for a quarter.
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