SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Adam Morrison was teased, taunted and
frustrated. So when Gonzaga finally grabbed control for good
against Xavier, he let all that emotion out by slamming the ball
against his head -- three times.
With that out of his system, he calmly made two free throws to
seal Gonzaga's 79-75 come-from-behind win over Xavier on Thursday
night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
"That's Adam. That's been Adam for a long time," Gonzaga coach
Mark Few said. "When he's out there, special things happen and
intense things happen. It's vintage Adam."
The Bulldogs' mustachioed, mop-topped star scored seven of his
35 points in the final two minutes and Gonzaga rallied to advance
in the Oakland Regional. He made the go-ahead shot on a 3-pointer
with 1:58 left as third-seeded Gonzaga finally overcame the No.
14-seed Musketeers after falling behind by nine early in the second
"I had the rhythm going into it and it felt good. I was going
to take that shot regardless and it went in," said Morrison, the
top scorer in Division I.
Morrison was 11-for-21 from the floor and had four assists. J.P.
Batista added 18 points and eight rebounds for the Zags (28-3), who
won their 19th in a row and play the winner of Indiana-San Diego
A magical run of four wins in four days of the Atlantic 10
tournament got Xavier (21-11) into the national field, and that
stellar play carried over into the first round of the NCAA.
But the Musketeers ran out of gas at the end against Gonzaga.
They couldn't take advantage of Gonzaga's foul troubles and were
just 9-for-15 from the line in the second half.
"A lot of people had us not making it here or the NIT. Winning
four games in four days was a great accomplishment for us," said
Justin Doellman, who scored 10 for Xavier. "For the younger guys
here it gives them confidence going into next year."
Stanley Burrell led Xavier with 22 points. Justin Cage scored
16, Josh Duncan had 11 points and Johnny Wolf scored 10 for Xavier,
which played the postseason without leading scorer Brian Thornton,
who broke his ankle last month.
As Xavier's top player sat behind the bench with crutches at his
side, his teammates couldn't stop Morrison.
"You're not going shut a person like that out, so I just tried
to make things hard for him," Cage said.
Morrison, taunted throughout the game by Xavier fans for his
retro look and slight 'stache, didn't have a lot of help from his
teammates, two of whom fouled out. He and Batista were the only
Zags to score in double figures, but they were enough for Gonzaga
to extend its eighth straight Tournament appearance.
"We have a saying at Gonzaga -- just keep sawing wood. And
that's what we kept doing," Morrison said.
Morrison clinched it with his two free throws with 19 seconds
left after pulling down a defensive rebound and getting fouled. The
play wasn't anything spectacular, but the highlight of the game may
have been Morrison's reaction.
While screaming something at no one in particular, he slammed
the ball into his forehead.
"You know I'm not the greatest rebounder on this team so I was
pretty happy with myself," Morrison said.
Morrison said there was some trash talking during the game, but
wouldn't say specifically what was said. He said he had a nice
heart-to-heart with Burrell at the end.
After Xavier made three straight 3-pointers to break a 44-all
tie early in the second half, the Bulldogs kept the lead within
single digits. Morrison made a 3 to cut it to 59-54 with just under
9 minutes left, then after a free throw by Xavier, Erroll Knight
scored on a layup and followed it with a 3-pointer to get Gonzaga
The Musketeers continued to hang onto the lead, although barely
at times, until Batista put back Morrison's missed free throw to
cut it to 71-69. Then after Batista intercepted a pass in the lane,
Morrison hit a 3-pointer with 1:58 left to put Gonzaga ahead for
the first time in the half.
Batista was playing with a bruised thigh and sprained knee left
over from the West Coast Conference tournament semifinals.