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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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No second-round blues this year (Gonzaga tourney)

At times it looked as though cruel fate would once again intervene, but when it was all said and done, the Gonzaga Bulldogs exorcised their second-round demons.

Saturday evening at the Huntsman Center, the Bulldogs knocked off Indiana to advance to their first Sweet-16 in five years, after being upset in their round-two matchups each of the last two seasons.

“It’s just nice for us to get over the hump,” Bulldog forward Sean Mallon said. “We had some good teams the last few years but lost in the second round, so it’s a great feeling.”

Even an inspired 3-point barrage down the stretch by Indiana couldn’t stop Gonzaga, which would not be denied in its quest to end a recent history of early NCAA tournament futility.

In 2004, it was 10th-seeded Nevada that knocked off the 2nd-seed Bulldogs in Gonzaga’s first taste of high expectations. The following year brought more heartbreak when Bob Knight’s Texas Tech squad upset the No. 3 seeded Zags 71-69 in Tucson.

Coming into Saturday’s matchup, the third-seeded Zags were hearing it all from fans and the media: History would once again be repeated; their narrow win over 14th-seeded Xavier in round one was a harbinger for defeat against the Hoosiers; since Gonzaga had narrowly escaped with victories all season long while showing an inability to blow teams out, it would catch up to them in March Madness when every team is good.

Consider the pundits quieted.

“Every time you turned on the TV you saw something anti-Zag for the past month or so,” Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison said. “Everybody picked us to lose, saying Indiana’s tougher. It means a lot.”

The win was a monkey off the back for the Bulldogs, who exploded onto the national scene in 1999 when they rode their No. 10 seed all the way to the Elite-8 after knocking off Minnesota, Stanford and Florida before falling to eventual-national champion Connecticut by five points.

The next two seasons saw trips to the round of 16, as the Bulldogs went from being an obscure West Coast Conference school to a national power. But like many teams trying to sustain their surge after going from hunter to hunted, the Zags went into a four year mini-slide in the NCAA tournament starting in 2002 when 11th-seed Wyoming knocked off No. 6 Gonzaga in the first round after the Bulldogs complained about their perceived low seed.

But that’s all in the rear-view mirror for the small school from Spokane, Wash., as it is now set for a date with second-seeded UCLA in the Sweet-16 on Thursday night in Oakland.

And with a win over the vaunted Bruins, perhaps all that negative chatter will be silenced for good.

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