Arizona looks to repeat history against Gonzaga

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SAN DIEGO -- Arizona head coach Sean Miller sent Gonzaga counterpart Mark Few a text message a few weeks ago in the middle of the night, telling him he was watching a replay of the Wildcats' 96-95 double-overtime win over the Bulldogs in the 2003 NCAA tournament.
The two went back and forth about the contest, unaware that the programs would end up in the same West Region. Now, as was the case 11 years ago, top-seeded Arizona (31-4) and No. 8 Gonzaga (29-6) will meet Sunday for the right to advance to next week's Sweet 16 and play No. 4 San Diego State.
Tipoff at Viejas Arena is scheduled for approximately 6:40 p.m., or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the other third-round contest between UCLA and Stephen F. Austin.
"I said yesterday, 'I think we jinxed each other by doing that.' We end up playing again," Few said.
The Gonzaga basketball office still has a photo of Blake Stepp's potential game-winning leaner hanging and Few isn't sure why, considering it was "a sad moment."
But he does remember the game, regardless of the outcome, to be a classic.
"That was one of those games where both teams, I thought, played great. It was just one of those epic college games," Few recalled.
The programs have met twice since, and most recently as two seasons ago in Seattle. The Bulldogs' 71-60 win on Dec. 17, 2011 happened to be the last regular-season nonconference loss dealt to the Wildcats.
UA guard Nick Johnson, the Pac-12 Conference player of the year, is one of just five players on both sides to play in the contest. But the junior said he has seen plenty of the Zags on TV this season.
"They're just well-disciplined," Johnson said. "They play hard and together and it's definitely going to be a tough game for us."
But it is a contest not many had on the forefront of their minds. After Gonzaga took down No. 9 Oklahoma State 85-77 on Friday, point guard David Stockton said the overlooked underdog role is one the team is comfortable with.
The tournament has been a reversal of roles for the Bulldogs, who were in the Wildcats' spot as a No. 1 seed last season. The run was cut short in this very round, however, losing to eventual Final Four participant Wichita State.
Now, Gonzaga will face an Arizona team favored by 6 1/2 points, but one that let No. 16 Weber State cut a 21-point second-half lead to single digits before prevailing, 68-59.
The Wildcats also were scoreless for most of the first five minutes of the contest, but a season-high 12 blocks helped limit Weber State to 30.2 percent shooting.
"I think it just settles in some of the people who haven't been (in the tournament)," said Johnson, who scored a team-high 18 points.
Still, Stockton said, one word comes to mind about Arizona: showtime.
"I don't know if they've had any replays where it's anything but lobs," Stockton said. "I feel like they're dunking every time I turn on the screen."
Looking to contest any alley-oops will be the frontcourt of Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski, who stand 6-9 and 7-1, respectively.
Among the bigger targets, Karnowski said, will be UA freshman Aaron Gordon. The forward finished off an alley-oop as part of his 16 points in his tournament debut.
"(We have to) help on Aaron Gordon," Karnowski said. "You just have to be tough. You have to hit him first, don't let him go around you and don't let him push you under the basket."
Offensively, Miller said, Gonzaga has the inside-out balance to create problems. Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell and Karnowski combined to score 58 points on six made field goals apiece in the win over the Cowboys.
"I think any coach would say we're getting ready to play as well coached as balanced of an attack as you can face offensively," Miller said. "What they're able to do with their guards, their perimeter players and then have two really dynamic low‑post players who are smart, very difficult to defend them and it's going to test our defense."
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Click Here to view this Link.Tracy McDannald Senior Editor
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