Zags and Saint Joseph’s on again

  • Associated Press
  • Wednesday, November 28, 2007 11:51pm
  • SportsSports

SPOKANE — The series between No. 19 Gonzaga and Saint Joseph’s has produced some memorable games with memorable players since 2001.

“Jameer Nelson, Delonte West, Blake Stepp, Ronny Turiaf, Dan Dickau, Adam (Morrison),” Gonzaga coach Mark Few recalled this week. “There have been a lot of NBA guys in this series.”

The Zags (5-1) travel to Saint Joseph’s bandbox gym in Philadelphia for tonight’s game.

This rivalry has become among the best at Gonzaga in recent years, starting with an 83-80 road win by the Zags in 2001 that was capped by Dickau’s 3-point buzzer beater.

Saint Joseph’s won 79-78 in overtime on Nelson’s jumper in Spokane in 2002, snapping the Zags’ 29-game home winning streak. Saint Joseph’s won 73-66 in New York City in 2003. Gonzaga won 102-94 in Spokane in 2005 to even the series. The teams did not play last season.

Few and Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli are good friends and both active in Coaches vs. Cancer.

“He’s a really, really good man,” Few said of Martelli. “He recruits and coaches the right way.”

Saint Joseph’s (3-1) is a favorite in the Atlantic 10 Conference this year, led by Pat Calathes (17 points per game), Darrin Govens (15 ppg) and Ahmad Nivins (13.8 ppg).

The Zags last played at Saint Joseph’s tiny Alumni Fieldhouse in 2001, and Few remembers the temperature in the visitor’s locker room was “about 120” and that the room measured about 10 feet square.

“It’s an old school, road visiting locker room,” Few said with a laugh.

On Saturday, the Zags travel to Boston to face Connecticut (2-1) in the Hartford Hall of Fame Showcase.

“Off the charts, athletically,” Few said of UConn. “We won’t play a bigger, stronger, more athletic team, in a tough, hostile environment.”

The cross country trip comes on the heels of three games at the Great Alaska Shootout in which the Zags beat Western Kentucky and Virginia Tech, sandwiched around a loss to Texas Tech.

“We played poorly,” Few said of the 73-63 loss to Bob Knight’s team.

Few said all the cross-continent travel in recent years can be a grind for his team.

“We are doing a lot of East Coast, East Coast, East Coast stuff,” Few said, adding he would like to schedule some more games closer to home.

Not that home is much easier. Next Wednesday, the Zags host No. 6 Washington State in the first showdown between two Eastern Washington teams when both are ranked.

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