Monday, December 1, 2008
Zags Outlast Vols; Take Home Old Spice Crown
The Old Spice Classic was touted as the deepest early season tournament and it lived up to the hype. It was a storybook run for the Gonzaga Bulldogs as they were able to survive a late rally in tonight's championship game to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers, 83-74 (cheers to MaxZag for nearly nailing the score in his game prediction).
Everyone knew Tennessee would come out fighting and the key for Gonzaga was to punch back and find their 'tough side'. The first half ended perfectly for the Zags as they put together a nice scoring run to secure a four point lead heading into the second half. Thanks in large part to the coming out party of sophomore sharp-shooter Steven Gray, the Bulldogs increased their lead to 18 points in the second half.
Bruce Pearl led teams rarely fade into the night and the Vols battled back valiantly with the aid of some 'questionable' decisions by Gonzaga. Cameron Tatum, who was probably the most outstanding player for Tennessee throughout the tournament, hit a big three pointer late in the game to shrink the deficit to six.
Tennessee would never get any closer as Micah Downs nailed five of six free throws down the stretch and Jeremy Pargo capped off the game with a fast break dunk.
The Zags were dominated on the boards, getting out rebounded 50-26 but they made up for it by shooting a blistering 52% compared with 35% for the Volunteers. Steven Gray led all scorers with 19 points and Matt Bouldin added 17 of his own. Josh Heytvelt, Micah Downs, and Jeremy Pargo joined Bouldin and Gray in double figures as Gonzaga continues to spread the ball around.
Jeremy Pargo was named Tournament MVP for his efforts.
The tournament victory will serve as a huge confidence booster for the Zags as they enter a very difficult December. Rarely is a team's NCAA Tournament seed defined in December but it is plain to see that this month will go a long way in dictating where the Bulldogs stand on the national stage. Indiana, Washington State, Arizona, Connecticut, and Utah will all come calling in the next 4 and 1/2 weeks.
Mark Few will have a few days to bring his team back to reality before they travel to Indianapolis to take on the storied Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday, December 6th.