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10 Observations from Gonzaga’s 2003 loss to Arizona in the second round of the NCAA Tournament

So close.

SALT LAKE CITY - MARCH 22: Tony Skinner #25of Gonzaga drives down court against Arizona during the Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

I still can’t believe this game. What an all-timer. I can’t imagine what it was like watching it live. How did anyone’s liver survive this??

  1. This Gonzaga team played hard and fearless. It wasn’t the most talented squad that Mark Few has ever assembled, but their effort level and understanding of how to play with one another was quite special.
  2. Blake Stepp might be the most fundamentally sound basketball player I’ve ever watched. His handles, shot, and passing were all textbook. He had a great look at a winner in double OT, and it’s a shame that it didn’t go down, but that was an unbelievable performance against one of the best teams in the country.
  3. What did Tony Skinner eat for breakfast? Stepp didn’t have to be a one-man band because Skinner picked a great time for his career best performance.
  4. It was fun watching this Gonzaga squad play operating a different offensive system than Mark Few employs today. The continuity ball screen system was not a thing yet, but the Zags still moved the ball really well and got it inside.
  5. While some things were different, even in 2003, Few loved having his teams push the ball in transition when given the chance. The Zags showed no trepidation about playing fast and uptempo against an Arizona squad that preferred that pace of play.
  6. I forgot how talented of a passer Luke Walton was in college. The Zags didn’t do a great job of denying him the ball and preventing him from facilitating Arizona’s offense, and he made them pay for it.
  7. Arizona looked like it was going to flick the switch and blow past Gonzaga on a couple of occasions during the second half, but credit to the Zags for buckling down and weathering every run to give themselves a chance to pull off the upset.
  8. Channing Frye getting into foul trouble and Blake Stepp going nuclear in the second half probably saved the Zags from getting blown out.
  9. Watching Ronny Turiaf leave the game after fouling out was soul-crushing. It’s hard to avoid the “what ifs” had Turiaf been available the rest of the way, but Richard Fox slid into his spot and produced some huge baskets that extended the game too, so maybe nothing would have changed.
  10. Arizona’s team was so stacked. Andre Iguodala is still playing in the NBA today, Channing Frye had a lengthy NBA career, Luke Walton is already an NBA head coach, and Salim Stoudamire stuck for a couple of seasons in the NBA before playing overseas.