Zags put one in the bank

  • By Scott M. Johnson / Herald Writer
  • Saturday, December 10, 2005 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – The last time Adam Morrison played a game in Seattle, he had a chance to hit the game-winning 3-pointer but missed badly.

Six days later, Morrison made up for it.

Gonzaga’s preseason All-American hit a stop-and-pop 3-pointer off the glass with 2.5 seconds left in the Bulldogs’ 64-62 comeback victory over Oklahoma State at KeyArena on Saturday afternoon.

Morrison overcame an off shooting game – he was 3 of 11 before hitting his final three shots of the contest – to finish with 25 points.

“It looked nice, and it went in, so I guess you could say I was trying to bank it,” said Morrison, whose game-winner became official when Oklahoma State guard JamesOn Curry missed a half-court shot at the buzzer.

A few hours after Duke’s J.J. Redick exploded for 41 points in a marquee matchup with second-ranked Texas, Morrison made certain to keep his name at the top of player-of-the-year lists. He helped the ninth-ranked Bulldogs claw back from a 10-point, second-half deficit by scoring seven points in the final 5:06.

After Oklahoma State’s Mario Boggan missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 12.6 seconds left and the Cowboys leading 62-61, Morrison took the ball the length of the floor and hit a pull-up jumper over the outstretched arms of two OSU defenders: 6-foot-8 David Monds and 6-foot-9 Marcus Dove.

“We drew up a play to get the ball in the hands of the best offensive player in America,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “That’s what we drew up, and that’s what the best offensive player in America does at the end of the game: make the shot.

“Was it lucky? Yeah. But you know what? That kid makes shots; that’s what he does. He does it better than anybody in the country.”

Morrison and his teammates struggled for most of the game but were able to stay in contention due in large part to a 31-7 advantage in free throw attempts. Gonzaga outscored the Cowboys 25-6 from the free-throw line while getting whistled for eight fewer fouls (21-13).

“That affects any team,” OSU coach Eddie Sutton said. “There are very few games where you see that kind of difference. But that didn’t beat us. We made too many mistakes. And you have to give (the Bulldogs) credit; they hung in there.”

The young, unranked Cowboys (6-3) spent most of the afternoon looking like the better team. OSU led 42-32 early in the second half and maintained a seven-point advantage, at 58-51, with less than six minutes to go.

But after Morrison hit his first field goal of the second half with 5:06 remaining to pull Gonzaga within 58-53, the Bulldogs scored 11 of the game’s final 15 points.

For most of the game, OSU shut Morrison down – due in large part to the defensive effort of Dove. Oklahoma State’s sophomore forward fought through screens, denied Morrison the ball and contested shots whenever the Gonzaga junior got one off.

“Marcus is a good defensive stopper; he can stop anybody in the country,” OSU’s Boggan said. “I think he’s one of the best defensive players in the country as far as locking people up. (Morrison) didn’t score most of his points on Marcus. It was on other people.”

Although Dove did a more than admirable job – Morrison was 6 of 14 from the field while scoring 11 points from the free-throw line – he was impressed with Gonzaga’s All-America candidate. As a high school AAU player, Dove faced a 16-year-old named LeBron James but said Morrison was in some ways more difficult to defend.

“He’s more polished and more mature” than James was back then, Dove said. “You can tell he’s been around basketball a long time.”

Morrison’s late heroics helped overshadow an otherwise abysmal shooting night from the Bulldogs. Gonzaga shot just 8 of 24 from the field in the first half and was 13-for-40 from the field for the game before hitting five of its final six shots.

“They were just harder than heck to score on,” said Few, whose team played without injured starting point guard Derek Raivio for the second game in a row. “We could not generate any baskets consistently. They’re just so tough – the toughest team that we’ve played, physically, all year.”

In the end, Gonzaga was able to fight through for its second win in a row. The last time the Bulldogs lost was one week ago, when Morrison’s missed shot in the final seconds helped UW go on to a 99-95 victory.

“This makes up for it a little bit,” Morrison said. ” (Huskies forward) Bobby Jones played great defense on that shot, and it just didn’t fall.

“But I’m going to take the last shot, regardless. Even if I’d missed all the shots in my career, I’m still going to take it.”

Thankfully for the Bulldogs, wasn’t afraid to take it on Saturday.

Notes: The crowd of 13,644 included former Washington coach Marv Harshman, a Lake Stevens native and Bothell resident. Harshman sat in the front row next to former Michigan State coach Judd Heathcoate, a Spokane resident and Gonzaga fan. … The Bulldogs don’t play again until hosting Virginia next Saturday. Few said he expects Raivio, who suffered a back injury in the loss to UW, to be available for that game.

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