EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Gonzaga rebounded against North Carolina State (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today) in more ways than one in the Jimmy V Classic.
Richard Fox had a Classic record 17 rebounds and Gonzaga spoiled North Carolina State's first appearance in the event that honors former Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano with a 69-60 victory Tuesday night.
Tuesday, Dec. 17
The beauty of Gonzaga's around the world schedule is that the Bulldogs can't stay down too long in defeat. There always seems to be another big-time game at a venue near you. Gonzaga bounced back from Sunday's defeat to Georgia by pounding N.C. State on the boards, grabbing nearly as many rebounds (61) as points (69) in a nine-point victory at the Jimmy V Classic. Gonzaga played six of its first eight on the road from Maui to Missoula to Atlanta (sorry no 'M' there) to the Meadowlands. Maybe that's why the defense has been suspect at times. Regardless, the Zags three losses are to potential Final Four teams Indiana, Kentucky and Georgia -- not bad in the power-rating bank. "This is a schedule that our team needs to play," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "We're developing a tough personality on the road. We got back to who we are, playing physical and mean and nasty." The Bulldogs will get more RPI chances against Stanford in Oakland at the Pete Newell Challenge Dec. 28 and then, yes, finally at home against Saint Joseph's (Dec. 31) and Tulsa (Feb. 22).
The win came just two days after the Bulldogs (6-3) were embarrassed at Georgia in a 95-83 loss that wasn't really that close.
"It was a short turnaround and there wasn't much we could do, so we challenged them to get back to where we were as a team, playing physical, mean, nasty and rebound the way we do,'' Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
The challenge was answered as the Bulldogs won the battle on the boards 61-35 in finally looking like the team that led the nation in rebounding last season.
"Coach told us to be men on the boards, go get rebounds,'' said Fox, who broke the old record set by Eddie Elisma of Georgia Tech against Massachusetts in the first Jimmy V in 1995.
"He said, 'It's not enough to box a guy out and hope someone
else goes and gets it. You have to get it,''' Fox said. "We played
with energy and passion and made it happen.''
Tony Skinner led a balanced scoring attack with 14 points. Cory Violette added 12 points and Kyle Bankhead scored all 10 of his in the second half for the Bulldogs, who were playing on the road for the seventh time in nine games.
Scooter Sherrill had 22 points, but N.C. State (5-1) had no chance of remaining unbeaten on a night in which it shot 27 percent. The team shot better than 50 percent in its first five games.
"Gonzaga did a great job on defense and we missed a lot of shots,'' North Carolina State coach Herb Sendek said. "I thought we had some good shots we missed.''
The Wolfpack missed 20 consecutive shots at one point, including the final 19 of the first half.
North Carolina State did manage to put together a little streak at the start of the second half. It hit seven shots, one more than it made in the first half, to take a 44-41 lead.
Gonzaga responded with a 13-3 spurt that included three
3-pointers, two by Bankhead.
Sherrill gave the Wolfpack its final lead at 47-46 on a
3-pointer with 10:51 to play.
Blake Stepp put Gonzaga ahead with a 3-pointer from the top of
the key and Bankhead followed with another 3-pointer after a
90-second dry spell by both teams for a 52-47 edge.
Fox powered his way inside on the Zags' next possession and
increased the lead to 54-47.
"Everybody on this team was looking around and trying to see inside themselves,'' Stepp said. "After that performance in Georgia we knew we had to step it up. It was a huge game. It was an ACC team and we had to show them Gonzaga basketball. If we didn't do it tonight, we didn't know when we would do it.''
"The guys are disappointed,'' Sendek said. "We don't feel good about the way we played.''
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