Zags Punch Ticket to New York

Heroes abound for the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the NIT Season Tipoff, but teamwork and hustle are what got the team from Spokane an opportunity to meet #2 ranked North Carolina in November 22nd's semi-final contest in Madison Square Garden.

Josh Heytvelt owned the Spokane Region of the NIT Season Tipoff, but when his game was off newcomer Abdullahi Kuso stepped in and picked up the slack by scoring 8 points and grabbing 7 boards and providing his team with Erroll Knight-like intangibles, including infectious energy.

Derek Raivio came into the cavernous made-for-hockey Spokane Arena with a 21-point explosion under his belt, but when his game was off Pierre-Marie Altidor-Cespedes struck for 14 points and Jeremy Pargo attacked with nearly 10 points both games. Raivio still accumulated 18 points, 10-10 from the charity stripe.

The Bulldog defense exceeded or met Coach Jerry Krause's time-tested criteria for great defense for the first time in his 13 combined years as an assistant at Gonzaga. Sean Mallon, among others, has givin up his body to absorb charges more times than the average fan can keep track of.

Some of the most amazing assists by the Zags in years, one from Matt Bouldin downcourt to a streaking Pierre-Marie for a layup, and a jaw-dropping inbounds lob from Jeremy Pargo to Heytvelt for a skying one-handed tomahawk slammer. The near-9000 fans buzzed in awe of this squad's teamwork. The night before, Mallon started the game against Rice with a gorgeous pass to a breaking Heytvelt for a lob jam. The list goes on.

Oh, and back to defense for a moment... Baylor's 2006 Big-12 Freshman of the Year Aaron Bruce (a Steve Nash clone if there ever was one) failed to score a single point against the Zag defense.

Altidor-Cespedes thinks this edition of the Bulldogs could be as good as any the school has had. agrees, but the truest test by far awaits in New York City where Roy Williams' Tar Heels await the Zags.

But these Zags, sans Adam Morrison, J.P. Batista and Erroll Knight, are fun and worth watching.

The GU Nation Staff is all over it.

David Pendergraft mixes it up with Baylor's trees.

Matt Bouldin chases down a loose ball over "Tweety" Carter.

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