Thursday, March 18, 2004
Seattle, Wash. - Valpo, the #15 seed, raced out to an early lead, but #2 seed Gonzaga controlled the second half and defeated the Crusaders 76-49 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Kikas Gomes led Valpo with 13 points and eight rebounds, while Jimmie Miles added 12 points.
Gonzaga (28-2), which extended its winning streak to 21, placed four players in double figures. Ronny Turiaf led the Bulldogs with 15 points, while Cory Violette tallied 13 points and 10 rebounds. Blake Stepp added 13 points and nine assists.
Valpo led 4-0 on baskets by Dan Oppland and Roberto Nieves. Three-pointers by Gomes and Ali Berdiel pushed the lead to 10-3 before Gonzaga went on a 14-4 run to take a 17-14 lead.
Oppland made a layup to tie the score at 17-17 with 10 minutes remaining, but Gonzaga responded with a 7-0 spurt to build a 24-17 advantage. Two steals and fast break dunks by Erroll Knight gave the 3rd-ranked Bulldogs a 31-18 lead with 3:18 left before halftime.
Leading 36-25 at intermission, Gonzaga gradually increased the lead to 17 with 8:52 left following two free throws and a layup by Turiaf, and a tip-in by Violette. Valpo could get no closer than 14 the rest of the way.
Miles, a freshman, scored all 12 of his points in the second half. Selected Valpo's CBS Player of the Game, Miles drained two, 3-pointers in four attempts.
Shooting woes plagued Valpo which finished 29 percent (18-63) from the floor. Gonzaga shot 54 percent (29-54) overall. The Bulldogs outrebounded the Crusaders 46-31.
Gonzaga took advantage of 13 Valpo miscues, outscoring the Crusaders 22-6 following turnovers.
The loss marked the end of the season for Valpo and was the final game for seniors Gomes, Nieves and Greg Tonagel.