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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga’s Sweet 16 loss to UCLA in 2006 back in spotlight

About 30 minutes after Gonzaga thumped Iowa at KeyArena, televisions inside the media room tuned into NCAA tournament coverage weren’t showing highlights of the Zags’ victory.

They were showing highlights of the Gonzaga-UCLA Sweet 16 game in 2006 with Adam Morrison sprawled out on the court in tears, an unforgettable image that Zag followers can summon without video assistance.

It’s no different in Morrison’s world. Less than 24 hours after Sunday’s win, which sets up Gonzaga’s Sweet 16 date with UCLA on Friday in Houston, the same video splashed across his TV screen.

“I guess it is what it is,” Morrison said. “I’ll live in infamy, but it’s not like I’m the first guy on the court to show emotion and I won’t be the last.”

Morrison has received numerous media requests this week. He knows the 2006 game will be one of the storylines. He said he might do a few interviews but he’ll stop immediately if it becomes a distraction to the current team.

“These players have earned the shine at this time,” he said.

To recap that 2006 contest, third-seeded Gonzaga led by as many as 17 and it was 42-29 at the break. Second-seeded UCLA, which had future NBA players Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ryan Hollins and Darren Collison, trailed by nine with 3:30 left.

Gonzaga didn’t score the rest of the way. UCLA scored the last 11 points.

“It was the perfect storm,” said Zags assistant Donny Daniels, a UCLA assistant in 2006. “They missed shots, we scored, they missed free throws, we scored, turnovers. (Derek) Raivio threw it to Morrison who threw it to (J.P.) Batista and Cedric (Bozeman) knocked it out of his hands and the rest is history. On top of that, Raivio has the ball (with Gonzaga down one) and he’s on the dead run and you’re thinking something good is going to happen and we steal it from behind. The perfect storm.”

Morrison agreed.

“There were 10 things that had to go wrong in the last five minutes,” he said, “and those 10 things went wrong.”

Morrison watched a replay of the game once, a short time later.

“We stopped attacking in the last five minutes,” he said. “We got complacent and tried to stall the game out.”

Daniels remembers Morrison (24 points) and Batista (18) put up big numbers. “It wasn’t like we were stopping them,” he said. “We just hung in and hung in.”

Morrison would have liked one do-over. The Zags led 71-68 when he missed a contested, step-back 16-footer. Batista was whistled for a questionable foul pursuing the rebound and Hollins, a 61-percent free throw shooter, made both to pull UCLA within one with 19.7 seconds remaining.

“I probably should have backed down Farmar to get a 12-footer or a jump hook,” said Morrison, an assistant video coordinator for GU. “That’s the play that sticks out in my mind. Thinking back, you have to try to get to the rim.”

The Zags had one last chance. David Pendergraft fired a long inbound pass to Batista, who missed a tough, fade-away 18-footer at the buzzer. The Bruins spilled on the court to celebrate. Cameras found Morrison sobbing near midcourt and later Batista using his jersey to wipe his eyes during a team huddle.

“Every locker room is tough (after a tournament loss),” coach Mark Few said. “It was no tougher than Wichita State. When it ends, it ends.”

Morrison was hit with a wave of emotion.

“We would have played Memphis, who we lost to at their place that year,” said Morrison, before listing off additional factors. “Being part of a team that not a lot of people get to experience and everybody knew I was going to leave (for the draft). I’m from Spokane, I was a ball-boy here, I watched this program grow.

“If we get that win it changes the program, we probably move up an echelon. We had one hand on the Elite 8 and we were ready to put the other hand on it.”

He later became teammates in the NBA with Farmar and Hollins, the latter “stayed at my house in Charlotte for a couple of weeks after he got drafted,” Morrison said. “People were like, ‘Really?’ Yeah, he’s my teammate.”

At some point, Morrison said, you simply have to move on.

“I’ll hear it once in a while or some keyboard warrior will want to make light of it,” he said. “I’ve put all that stuff to rest. If this is my most embarrassing moment, I’m fine with that. There are a lot of other athletes that have done a lot worse things.”