Last year, I wrote a weekly feature called This Week in Gonzaga History. It was fairly well received, so I decided to do another look back feature this year. Every Monday, we will look back at the 12 most memorable men’s and women’s basketball teams in school history. This won’t necessarily be an analysis of how they played, but more so videos and stats to remind everyone how fun they were. Today, we look back fondly on the 2008-2009 Gonzaga Bulldogs.
The Zags were coming off a first round loss to Steph Curry and Davidson to end the 2008 season. As it turns out, that would be the last time they lost a first round game until... well, who knows? The 2008-09 Bulldogs had perhaps the most underrated roster in Gonzaga history. Jeremy Pargo entered his senior season with Micah Downs and Matt Bouldin flanking him on the wings. Josh Heytvelt played his best season, and the polarizing Austin Daye rounded out the starting five. Sophomore Steven Gray and freshman Demetri Goodson helped in the backcourt while the legendary Ira Brown got a few rotation minutes (and dunks). And of course, nobody can forget big Will Foster and senior Andrew Sorenson. Rob Sacre would redshirt the season.
They began the campaign ranked 10th in the nation. After an opening win against Idaho, they went to Florida and won the Old Spice Classic, defeating #12 Tennessee in the title game. After a tough loss to Arizona dropped the Zags to 8-1, they went to Seattle to face #2 UCONN in perhaps the best Battle in Seattle (RIP) game of all time. After they couldn’t secure a rebound, and decided not to foul, AJ Price delivered a game-tying three and the Huskies prevailed in OT.
The Zags were so beat up from the game, they came home to a student-less Kennel and lost to Portland State, which probably remains the worst home loss in McCarthey Athletic Center history. They also dropped their next game to Utah and completely dropped out of the polls. They went from #4 to unranked in three weeks. And then the season completely turned around. Six weeks after beating Tennessee in Orlando, they traveled to Knoxville and beat them again in overtime.
That win started their torrid second half of the season. They ripped through the WCC undefeated for the third time under Mark Few, including two absolute drubbings in the WCC tournament. Their only loss came to Memphis at Spokane Arena in which ESPN’s Gameday was in attendance. This feels like the right time to drop a bunch of Jeremy Pargo and Ira Brown dunks.
Some fun stats from the season:
- Six Zags averaged 9+ points, with four in double figures - Heytvelt (14.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Bouldin (13.5 ppg, 3.4 apg), Daye (12.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg), and Pargo (10.2 ppg, 4.9 apg).
- The team led the entire country in two-point defense, holding teams to 39.5 percent shooting inside the arc - the best mark in the Few Era.
- Their 16.1% turnover percentage on offense was the lowest number in Gonzaga history until the 2019 team beat it last year.
- Austin Daye’s 70 blocked shots was the most in Gonzaga history until Brandon Clarke shattered that.
- Matt Bouldin and Jeremy Pargo finished their careers tied for second all-time at Gonzaga with 170 steals. Kevin Pangos and Josh Perkins have since passed them.
Of course, we all know how the season ended. Gonzaga received a four seed in the NCAA Tournament. They disposed of Akron before facing Western Kentucky and providing one of the most memorable moments in Gonzaga tournament history.
Unfortunately, they ran into a North Carolina buzzsaw in the Sweet 16, and like everyone else, they got beat by double digits by the eventual national champs. If they got a different number one seed, with the way they were playing, maybe a deeper run would have been possible. But as it is, the 2008-2009 Bulldogs provided us with plenty of long lasting memories... so I ask you, loyal reader of this here blog, where would you rank this team on your top 12 of Memorable Gonzaga Teams? Do you think you can correctly predict which teams comes next Monday? Stay tuned to find out.