Gonzaga! The Slipper Still Fits! The tip-in that launched an unheralded program onto a new trajectory, and the iconic call that launched this humble abode (many years later).
Casey Calvary’s tip-in with under five seconds left gave the No. 10 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs a 73-72 lead over the Florida Gators that was secured after Eddie Shannon’s off-balance jumper bounced harmlessly away, and delivered a signature win for a small program from Spokane, Washington that found itself in the Elite 8 and and an unexpected date with a basketball juggernaut in the Connecticut Huskies.
Three Zags scored in double figures, led by Richie Frahm’s 17 points which included a 5-8 performance from the three-point line along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. The hero of the night, Casey Calvary, finished with 12 points (5-6 FG) and 5 rebounds. Matt Santangelo rounded it out 11 points and 7 assists, while his backcourt mate in Quentin Hall chipped in 7 points. Jeremy Eaton added 5 points, while Axel Dench came off the bench to produce 8 points and some quality minutes.
Greg Stolt led the Gators with 16 points, and Brent Wright added 15 as they were the only starters to reach double figures for Billy Donovan’s squad. Freshman forward Mike Miller scored 10 points off the bench.
The Bulldogs came out of the starting blocks strong with an effective inside-out combo that gave them the edge over the Gators. Quentin Hall’s speed and tenacity off the dribble constantly stressed Florida’s defense, while Matt Santangelo was steady pulling the strings and hitting the open man early and often.
After the under-8 timeout in the first half, the Zags had built a 26-13 lead by forcing Florida into a slew of turnovers and exploiting Florida’s scrambled defense that was trying to press Gonzaga’s seasoned guards, but with little success.
The Gators weren’t out of it by any means, however, as they put together a run of their own in the final five minutes of the opening half to erase Gonzaga’s comfortable lead and reset the game for the second half.
Gonzaga emerged from halftime with a narrow 35-34 lead, and 20 minutes to prove that the win over the No. 2-seeded Stanford Cardinal in the second round was no fluke. The Zags looked up to the task early, once again gaining the front foot on Florida with some heady perimeter defense and timely baskets in the halfcourt offense.
But each time Gonzaga appeared to be mounting a knockout run, the Gators had an answer (or two) and reeled them back in. But the Zags didn’t shrink as the minutes wound down, with Frahm going on a personal tear as he connected on a trio of three-pointers in the final minutes to exchange blows with the Gators.
Florida had one more three-ball to answer with, however, as a Greg Stolt bucket put the Gators ahead by three points with 45 seconds left in the game, but it was the last time his team would score. Fortunately for Gonzaga fans, the Zags weren’t finished.