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Zags Look For Berth In Sweet 16

March 17, 2006

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The second round is the one that has doomed Gonzaga recently. This year, the team should feel fortunate to have even advanced to this point.

Adam Morrison tries to help the third-seeded Bulldogs avoid a fourth straight second-round exit when they meet sixth-seeded Indiana on Saturday in an Oakland Regional matchup featuring teams which needed some late heroics just to get this far.

Pulling out close victories is nothing new for Gonzaga (28-3), which has won its last four games by a total of 12 points.

The Zags trailed most of the second half against 14th-seeded Xavier on Thursday, but took advantage when the Musketeers ran out of gas and prevailed 79-75. Morrison had seven of his game-high 35 points in the final two minutes and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:58 remaining.

"We have a saying at Gonzaga - just keep sawing wood. And that's what we kept doing," said Morrison, who went for 11-for-21 from the floor and had four assists.

The junior forward hopes his third NCAA tournament appearance - likely his last assuming he enters the NBA draft - does not end how the first two did, with Gonzaga falling to a lower seed in the second round.

The Zags also were a No. 3 seed last season and lost 71-69 to Texas Tech despite Morrison's 25 points. One year earlier, they were seeded second and got upset by Nevada 91-72.

In 2003, Gonzaga also suffered a disappointing second-round loss, 96-95 to Arizona in double overtime. The Bulldogs lost to Wyoming in the first round in 2002 after reaching at least the regional semifinals the previous three years.Gonzaga coach Mark Few knows the talent level between the highest and lowest of seeds isn't as big as it once was, leaving any favored team vulnerable to an upset.

"There might be one or two great seeds out there, I don't know if there is a great team out there," Few said. "There are so many good teams right now. There's just a tremendous amount of parity in college basketball."

The Hoosiers also found that out Thursday, needing Robert Vaden's 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left to beat 11th-seeded San Diego State 87-83.

Indiana (19-11) trailed for most of the second half and was outplayed by the Aztecs, allowing them to shoot 59 percent from the field.

"We've been playing NCAA basketball for the last three weeks," coach Mike Davis said, referring to a stretch of five wins in six games during which the Hoosiers earned an at-large bid.

"Our guys are used to what it's like to be in these situations and it showed tonight."

Davis now hopes to avoid seeing his career as Indiana coach come to an end. He announced four weeks ago he was resigning when the Hoosiers' season is over.

His team last reached the regional semifinals in 2002, when it made the national title game before losing to Maryland.

That year also marked the only time these teams met, with Indiana beating Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational.

Davis will be looking for another strong performance from Vaden, who scored 18 points in the first round despite playing on a badly sprained ankle.

"Some people told me that if I didn't need him, I shouldn't have played him tonight," Davis said. "Well, we needed him."

While Vaden and Earl Calloway led Indiana with 18 points apiece, Gonzaga got 18 from J.P. Batista as he was the only Zags player besides Morrison to score in double figures.

It was Morrison's rebound - just his second of the game - with 19 seconds left and two subsequent free throws that helped seal the Bulldogs' victory.

"That's Adam. That's been Adam for a long time," said Few, whose team extended its win streak to 19 games. "When he's out there, special things happen and intense things happen. It's vintage Adam."

Morrison bounced back from a 6-for-18 performance against Loyola Marymount in the WCC title game and fended off taunts from Xavier fans to extend his NCAA scoring lead over Duke's J.J. Redick, who had 29 points against Southern in a first-round game Thursday.

Morrison is averaging 28.6 points to Redick's 27.4.