- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2009

SPOKANE, WASH. (AP) - Gonzaga hopes its experience will pay off against top-seeded North Carolina in Friday’s regional semifinals in Memphis.

Many of these Zags played key roles in upsetting North Carolina (30-4) two seasons ago in Madison Square Garden. Josh Heytvelt outplayed Tyler Hansbrough, and Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin both scored in double figures.

Gonzaga beat North Carolina 82-74 on Nov. 22, 2006, as part of the NIT tip-off tournament. This time the stakes are higher, a berth in the Elite Eight.

“It’s nothing to gloat about at this point,” Heytvelt said of the 2006 game. “We have a game a lot bigger than that coming up.”

Gonzaga (28-5) will be trying to make the Elite Eight for the first time since the 1999 team that brought the school’s basketball team to national attention.

“They probably have a chip on their shoulder,” said Heytvelt, who had 19 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in that game.

Derek Raivio, who has since graduated, led the Zags with 21 points. Pargo, the current point guard, and Matt Bouldin (14 points, six assists) also saw significant playing time.

Hansbrough was held to nine points and nine rebounds. Other current Tar Heels who played in that game include Ty Lawson (11 points), Wayne Ellington (five points), Danny Green (five points), Deon Thompson (four points) and Bobby Frasor (11 points).

Gonzaga coach Mark Few watched a tape of the 2006 game on Monday. He sought to correct the notion that Heytvelt shut Hansbrough down. Rather it was former Zags David Pendergraft and Abdullahi Kuso who did the heavy lifting, aided by Heytvelt, Few said.

Watching that old tape was helpful, Few said.

“There are a lot of the same characters in that play that’ll be in this one,” Few said. “They look different, but they are the same characters.”

Few said Hansbrough especially seems to be playing more confidently and aggressively now.

“He’s expanded his game, banging in some 3s now,” Few said.

These Tar Heels are a high-scoring unit, averaging 90.3 points, with all the starters in double figures.

But the Zags are also among the nation’s top scoring teams, at 79 points, with six players averaging at least nine points. Few doesn’t figure to try and slow the Tar Heels down.

“I’m a big believer in transition basketball,” Few said. “That’s when we are at our best.”

“I don’t see us slowing it up a lot,” he said.

The Zags are holding opponents to 37 percent shooting, one of the best marks in the nation.

Bouldin said the Zags won’t be intimidated.

“We felt we can play with anybody this entire year,” Bouldin said.

This has been considered one of the top Zags teams in history, but also has been battling those high expectations. There was also grumbling about the consecutive first-round exits in the past two NCAA tournaments.

They briefly fell from the Top 25 poll when they lost four of five games in late December. But they have won 11 in a row and reached the round of 16 for the first time since Adam Morrison’s last season in 2006. The 1999 team that reached the Elite Eight was the only Zags team to advance further.

Meanwhile, freshman guard Demetri Goodson said he is moving on after sinking a floater off the glass with 0.9 seconds remaining to beat Western Kentucky 83-81 on Saturday. Goodson had played only four minutes in the second half and was in the game primarily for his defense.

Goodson said his life has been a swirl of interviews, telephone calls, text messages and little sleep since he made the game winner. But reality was about to intrude as he began practice on Monday and hoped to get some playing time against North Carolina’s Lawson.

“I can’t be thinking about that shot while I’m guarding him,” Goodson said.

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