Morrison held in check? Other Zags thrive
SALT LAKE CITY -- Can you believe it? UCLA and Gonzaga have played just once. More than six years ago in Pauley Pavilion. Wasn't close. Wasn't much of a game at all.
The Zags beat the Bruins by 16 that day in 1999, but it didn't have near the implications this next matchup will. Gonzaga proved Saturday that it's formidable, even when Adam Morrison has one of those rare mortal outings, beating Indiana 90-80 in a second-round game at the Huntsman Center. What it means: The No. 3 seeded Zags will play No. 2 seed UCLA in a Sweet 16 game Thursday in Oakland.
Think that one will generate some interest up and down the West Coast?
"[UCLA] has done a heck of a job," Zags coach Mark Few said. "[Head coach] Ben [Howland] has done an incredible job turning that thing around and getting it going. They have just gotten better and better. I know they have two great guards in [Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo] but I really think it has been their inside people that have made the biggest difference."
UCLA will be smart to focus much of its defensive attention on Morrison, but this game film will show Howland and his staff how dangerous it can be to forget about others playing for Few. Indiana held Morrison to 14 points (more than 14 below his average) on 5-for-17 shooting. Fine. Good. Dandy.
The Hoosiers did not stop senior center J.P. Batista, who went for 20 points and nine rebounds.
They did not stop junior forward Sean Mallon, who finished with 15 points and 10 boards.
They did not control senior guard Erroll Knight, who responded to a 101-degree temperature with 11 points, including some acrobatic dunks and follow tip-ins.
"I've said all year, and I don't think people really believed me, but we have other guys on this team that can play," Morrison said. "This is a perfect example of when I'm having a bad night that everyone else can pick me up ... I just missed some shots I normally make, but you have to give them credit. They held me down."
The same can't be said for stopping those inside. Indiana (19-12) desperately tried rallying from distance, making 16-of-36 3-pointers, including 13-of-25 in the second half. But it's tough matching so many long jumpers against inside layups and second shots.
Few said afterward -- with apologies to Shelden Williams of Duke -- that he doesn't believe there is a better inside scorer nationally than Batista. Indiana didn't do much to refute the claim, getting little from senior Marco Killingsworth (12 points, five rebounds in 22 minutes) while watching Batista make 10-of-18 shots.
"They are a real physical team, more than most people probably realize or give them credit for," Indiana guard Marshall Strickland said. "Batista is the main guy but they have others who also crash the boards. We're small. We can shoot. But when Marco is out, we don't have a lot of options."
Said Batista: "I was just trying to be aggressive. It seemed like they were trying to play me one-on-one and I had the green light to go to work."
The Zags not only advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 2001 and in the process ended the Indiana coaching career of Mike Davis, but have now set up a game many have desired to see since Selection Sunday unfolded.
"You don't often have two West Coast powers going at it this time [of year]," Morrison said. "It's going to be a great game."
Ed Graney of The San Diego Union-Tribune is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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