Game talk: vanquishing the Crusaders

It was much closer than many people suspected, but Arizona won the Fiesta Bowl Classic basketball tournament for the 16th time in 17 season. The Crusaders of Valparaiso put a scare into the Wildcats. But eventually fell 74-70. The play of the game had to be the four point play by Jason Gardner with 1:28. The three point shot gave the Cats the lead and the free throw put the Cats up by three, 71-68.

"That young man was trained in the state of Indiana," said coach Homer Drew of the Indiana based Valparaiso. "The form, the range, all learned in Indiana. You have to admire Jason (Gardner). You've got to compliment that young man.

"He's just a winner," Lute Olson said of his point guard. "When the game is on the line he's going to hit a higher percentage than he does the rest of the time."

"If I was to miss Coach O. would jump off the bench and yell at me," Gardner said of his big shot. "


The Crusaders do not consider themselves underdogs. The so-called "mid-major" team has been to more NCAA tournaments in the last six years than Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Iowa State. That success has rubbed off on the players' attitudes.

"We think we can play with anyone," said Valpo guard Stalin Ortiz.

"Our goal was to win," said Drew. "Our goal was to come out and get ourselves on ESPN. We have good confidence with ourselves, our teammates and our team. This is why we were playing Arizona tonight and KU (Kansas) on Wednesday."

Olson believes in the Crusaders and thinks they will be playing come March.

"Valparaiso is a very good team," Olson said. "They can score from all five positions and bring four off the bench.

"They are an excellent team," said Rick Anderson. "They will do well in their league and should make the tournament. No, they WILL make the tournament."

The Crusaders' match-up zone caused the Cats some problems.

"You can't duplicate it (the Valpo zone) in practice with walk-ons," said Olson. "Their size and length caused a lot of problems in trying to penetrate the zone.


Chris Moss-West Virginia
Salim Stoudamire-Arizona
Raitis Grafs-Valparaiso
Channing Frye-Arizona
Boomer Brazzle-Pepperdine
MVP: Jason Gardner-Arizona


Freshman forward Dennis Latimore played 17 minutes and for the most part played effectively. He his both of his shots from the field and 2-of-3 free throws for six points. He also had four rebounds and zero turnovers.

"With Luke being injured I had to take advantage of having more minutes," Latimore said.

Olson was very pleased with Latimore's performance, save one aspect. His perimeter defense left something to be desired.

"The problem is he's been an inside defender all his life," Olson said. "I don't want to tell you how many mess ups we had on switching off of screens. That is the only reason he came out."


Jason Gardner was 7-7 from the free throw line. He also had six assists, with only three turnovers. He also added five steals.

Luke Walton:"It was real frustrating. It was fun watching them play, but when the game is close like that , it is frustrating that you can't get in there and help them.

"We weren't getting to the open spots in the zone. They adjusted nicely. I'm usually the guy who gets to the open spot."

Salim Stoudamire shot 5-7 from the field against Valpo after shooting 9-13 against Pepperdine. For the tournament he was 14-10 (.700).

Salim Stoudamire: "I'm just really confident right now. I have faith in myself. We're ready to get our Revenge (on Oregon)."

Channing Frye only scored four points after averaging 18.0 the previous three games. He did pull down 10 rebounds for the second straight game. Frye also had the Cats' lone block shot.


Wildcat Authority Top Stories