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Eek, eek, eke for Arizona

ARIZONA 96, GONZAGA 95 (2OT): The top seed in the West advances by ousting the perennial Cinderella.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2003

SALT LAKE CITY -- Those ever-lovin' Zags almost did it again, this time in a double-overtime thriller against top-seeded Arizona.

Salim Stoudamire, quiet for most of the game, scored five during the second overtime as Arizona held off ninth-seeded Gonzaga 96-95 Saturday in a game that ranks among the best in NCAA Tournament history.

"That," Arizona's Jason Gardner said, "was definitely an ESPN Classic."

Gonzaga nearly pulled off an upset that would have dwarfed its tournament runs in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

"Of all the teams I've had at Gonzaga, I've never been more proud," coach Mark Few said.

Stoudamire's floater in the lane with 2:03 left in the second overtime represented the game's final points.

"That's the greatest game I ever played in," Arizona's Rick Anderson said. "I could see it in their eyes. Everybody on the court wanted to win."

Tony Skinner, whose career-high 25 points included 5-for-11 shooting on 3-pointers, missed an open 3 with four seconds left for Gonzaga. Blake Stepp, who scored 19 of his 25 after halftime, missed a 5-foot follow-up bank shot just before the buzzer sounded.

"It just didn't go in for me," Stepp said. "That's probably the hardest game I've been a part of in terms of two teams fighting it out."

All five Wildcats starters reached double figures. Gardner scored 22. Channing Frye had 22 points and 12 rebounds and played the final five minutes and both overtimes with four fouls. Anderson had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Luke Walton had 16 points and nine assists. His basket with 4.1 seconds left forced the second overtime.

With starters Ronny Turiaf, who scored 16, and Winston Brooks fouled out, Gonzaga went scoreless for the last 2:10 after Skinner's two free throws put it ahead 95-94. Stoudamire's 3-pointer put Arizona up 94-93.

"My teammates just showed confidence in me and forgot all about the earlier shots," Stoudamire said. "They said we needed some big shots, and I hit them."

Gardner made three free throws during the finally 25.1 seconds of regulation but missed the fourth. Stepp missed his second straight 3-pointer, but Skinner put in the rebound at the buzzer to tie it at 78.

Arizona led 87-84 on Gardner's two free throws and Anderson's inside basket in the first overtime. But Stepp's 3-pointer from the top of the key tied it with 1:10 left.

Walton threw the ball away on Arizona's next possession, then Few called a timeout. Gardner tied up Richard Fox for a jump ball. But the possession arrow went to the Bulldogs, and Fox scored on the inbounds play to put Gonzaga up 89-87 with 14.5 seconds left.

Walton powered the ball inside to tie it at 89, and Stepp's 3-pointer from just inside midcourt was off the mark at the buzzer, bringing on the second overtime.

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