The Gonzaga Bulldogs figured Minnesota had something to prove and they were right.
"If they had only five guys, we knew they were going to come out and play," Gonzaga's Matt Santangelo said after the Bulldogs held on in the second half to beat the depleted Gophers 75-63 in a first-round game in the NCAA West Regional Thursday.
"I think this game shows you the character and class of the people at the University of Minnesota," Gophers coach Clem Haskins said. "We were shorthanded, but we're not making any excuses."
Richie Frahm scored 26 points, including five 3-pointers, and the Bulldogs (26-6) needed almost all of them for the school's first NCAA tournament victory.
The Gophers (17-11) were missing four players who were ruled ineligible because of allegations of academic fraud. And two of the remaining eight players - Joel Przybilla and Kevin Nathiel - fouled out.
In addition, Kyle Sanden of the Gophers could not play because of a sprained ankle he suffered in practice Wednesday.
Less than five hours after finding out they couldn't play, Gophers Kevin Clark, Miles Tarver, Jason Stanford and Antoine Broxsie tried to cheer their team into the second round of the tournament and they almost succeeded.
Trailing by 21 points, 51-30, early in the second half, Minnesota almost caught Gonzaga with a ragtag lineup that featured Dusty Rychart. Rychart had career highs of 23 points and 17 rebounds.
Rychart, a freshman walk-on forward, found out he was going to make his first start Thursday morning.
"I knew I had to give it my best shot," Rychart said.
Minnesota cut the Bulldogs' lead to 65-63 whn Rychart sank two free throws with 1:43 to go.
But that ended the Gophers' run.
"We missed some good shots and then we got a little tentative," Gonzaga coach Dan Monson said.
Frahm, who made five of 11 3-point attempts, responded with his first of the second half with 1:21 left. For Gonzaga, a school that John Stockton played for and Bing Crosby attended, it was the biggest shot of the day.
"That just shows you what kind of a player Richie is," Monson said.
Said Frahm: "I'm still shocked that I shot it. I'm sure glad it went down."
Casey cavery of Gonzaga followed Frahm's critical 3-pointer with a fastbreak dunk and hit a free throw after he was fouled by Rychart with a minute to go.
Santangelo and Frahm each had two free throws in the final 48 seconds.
Gonzaga, playing in front of a friendly crowd in its home state, had four players in double figures.
Santangelo had 14 points and eight assists, Jeremy Eaton 12 points and Quentin Hall 10 points. Calvary had 11 rebounds.
For Minnesota, Mitch Ohnstad, starting his first game of the season, had 12 points. But Quincy Lewis of the Gophers struggled to get eight points on 3-of-19 shooting.
Lewis, the Big Ten scoring winner who averaged 23.7 points as a senior, was stopped by design, Monson said.
| Suspended Minnesota players support their team from the sidelines. (AP)|
"We used a diamond and one defense on him," Monson explained. "If we were going to get beat, it was going to be by somebody besides him."
Lewis said it was hard to go out a loser under the circumstances that Minnesota was under.
"Stuff happens," he said. "It was hard, basically. What if? What if? I'm just going to leave it at that."
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