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Wolf Pack dominate from the start

3/21/2004

SEATTLE (AP) -- Now Gonzaga knows what it's like to get knocked
out by a plucky underdog.

"It feels as if someone took your life away almost. This is all
we've got, this is all I've got -- basketball. We can't play
anymore," forward Adam Morrison said.

Once the darlings of the NCAA Tournament, the second-seeded
Bulldogs were blown out by Nevada 91-72 Saturday in the second
round.

Kevinn Pinkney scored 20 points, Todd Okeson had 19 and Kirk
Snyder had 18 for the Wolf Pack, who led by as many as 20 in the
first half and never let the Bulldogs make a run.

"We've been doubted since the beginning of this tournament,"
Snyder said. "After beating Michigan State, we felt good. We felt
we could make plays."

The loss snapped a school-record 21-game winning streak for
Gonzaga (28-3), which had lost only to No. 1 seeds Stanford and St.
Joseph's this season.

Players on Gonzaga's bench stood in amazement in the final
minute and Kyle Bankhead sobbed at the buzzer, while Wolf Pack fans
chanted "Sweet 16! Sweet 16!"

Nevada (25-8), in the tournament for the first time in 19 years,
was one of just three double-digit seeds to reach the second round.
The Western Athletic Conference tournament champions upset Michigan
State on Thursday night.

The Wolf Pack advance to the St. Louis Regional to play the
winner of Sunday's game between Boston College and Georgia Tech. It
was almost enough to bring tears from Pinkney.

"I thought I was going to cry after the last game," he said.
"I really feel like I'm going to cry after this one."

Snyder and Okeson were far less humble. They postured on court
for the fans after the game, pulling at the "Nevada" logo on
their jerseys. Okeson bounced the game ball high in the air.

It was the eighth straight season that at least one No. 10 seed
has advanced to the round of 16.

Since 1999, 10th-seeded teams are 8-3 against No. 2 seeds -- two
of those upsets were by Gonzaga.

"You know, these guys I've got playing for me are pretty good
players," Nevada coach Trent Johnson said.

The Bulldogs, who were down 47-32 at halftime, narrowed it to
49-40 on Cory Violette's layup.

Gonzaga was unable to get closer until Sean Mallon's layup
pulled the Bulldogs to 58-50. Despite foul trouble, Ronny Turiaf
returned to help Gonzaga, but Pinkney's dunk extended Nevada's lead
to 67-54.

Violette had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Zags, who could
not get closer than eight points.

Gonzaga, which made a surprising run to the round of eight in
1999, was in the tournament for the seventh time with its highest
seed ever.

The Bulldogs took top-seeded Arizona to double overtime in the
second round last year before losing as the ninth seed. As a sixth
seed in 2002, Gonzaga lost to No. 11 Wyoming in the opening round.

With aggressive inside play, Nevada went on a 12-4 run to take a
surprising 19-11 early lead. They opened the game with 60 percent
shooting from the floor.

Okeson pounded his chest after he hit a a 3-pointer to extend
Nevada's lead to 24-13, and the Wolf Pack's contingent of fans
cheered wildly. He didn't even set up when his next 3 put Nevada
ahead 27-13.

"We were trying to set the tempo early in the game, we knew we
had to stay ahead of these guys," Pinkney said.

Gonzaga got into trouble when Turiaf got his third foul with
11:07 to go in the first half. Blake Steep didn't even score until
he made the second of two free throws with 10:17 to go.

Stepp did not score from the floor for Gonzaga until he hit a
3-pointer and got fouled with 4:40 left, but it didn't do much good
as the Bulldogs trailed 42-26.

Stepp, who was cold from the floor in the Zags' opening-round
win against Valparaiso, also had an off game Saturday, shooting
just 3-for-18 from the floor. He finished with 13 points and five
assists.

"I felt good. They just didn't go down," Stepp said. "If I
ever make it to the NBA, I hope I don't have to play in KeyArena."

The Wolf Pack got a brief scare late in the half when Jermaine
Washington, chasing after a ball, tumbled over the courtside
scorers table and onto the floor behind the Nevada bench.
Washington was not hurt, and the effort for the ball exemplified
the Wolf Pack's aggressive style of play.

Stepp missed a 3-point attempt as time ran out in the half and
the Gonzaga fans roundly booed the officials as they left the
floor.

Turiaf returned to the floor for Gonzaga in the second half, but
quickly collected his fourth foul and went to the bench until the
final 10 minutes. He also finished with 13 points.

"I wouldn't say it's the best defense we've seen all season,"
Stepp said. "But they stuck with us."