TUCSON, Ariz. - Ronald Ross is Bob Knight's kind of player, tough and eager to learn. So who better to make the shot that got the old coach back to a regional semifinal for the first time since 1994?
Ross - a walk-on four years ago who became one of the Big 12's best guards under Knight's guidance - sank the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:06 to play, then added two clinching free throws with 7.5 seconds left to lead Texas Tech to a 71-69 second-round victory over Gonzaga.
"He's an all-time example to kids as to what they can do with what they have," Knight said. "I've never had a player that I would have had more admiration for than Ronald Ross - particularly when he hit that 3."
When it ended, Knight had wife Karen join him on the court. With one arm around her husband, she cried in an emotional scene for a coach whose 854 career victories are just 25 shy of Dean Smith's NCAA Division I record.
"My wife's a better coach than I am," Knight explained. "If I pick three or four people that know the most about basketball, she and Pete Newell would be my first two choices, and so I just wanted to thank her for all the help she had given us in preparing for this game and this season. She deserved to be a real part of it."
Ross scored 24 points - giving him 104 in his last four games - and grabbed nine rebounds, and backcourt mate Jarrius Jackson added 18 points. Martin Zeno scored 11 and Darryl Dora 10, eight in the second half, for the sixth-seeded Red Raiders, who will face seventh-seeded West Virginia in the semifinals of the Albuquerque Regional. West Virginia beat second-seeded Wake Forest 111-105 in double overtime.
The loss snapped the Bulldogs' 13-game winning streak, longest of any tournament team. Third-seeded Gonzaga (26-5) made an early exit with a high seed for the second year in a row. The Zags were the No. 2 seed a year ago and lost to Nevada in the second round.
"I feel awful," senior Ronny Turiaf said. "That's why we work hard, so hard in the summertime. That's why we practice so hard during the year. That's what we live for - to play in the NCAA tournament."
Adam Morrison had 25 points and nine rebounds for Gonzaga, and scored 10 consecutive Bulldogs' points after Tech (22-10) rallied to take the lead. But, with his team trailing 69-67, Morrison missed a 3-pointer with 19.5 seconds to go.
"It wasn't my primary option, but it was the option that was given to us, so I shot," Morrison said. "It didn't go in."
Devonne Giles grabbed the rebound for Tech, and managed to call timeout as he fell out of bounds, despite the protests of the Gonzaga bench that he was out before the timeout signal.
Ross was fouled and made the free throws to make it a four-point lead. Derek Raivio, just 2-for-7 shooting, made a jumper with 2 seconds left for the final two-point margin.
The Zags scored the first four points of the second half to take a 42-29 lead on Erroll Knight's fastbreak stuff, but the Red Raiders scored the next seven, the last on Ross' 3-pointer, to cut it to 42-36.
After Raivio's lone 3-pointer of the day put Gonzaga ahead 54-46 with 13:20 to go, Tech scored the next nine points to take its first lead, 55-54, after Dora's close-in bank shot with 9:44 remaining.
Erroll Knight matched his season high with 14 points for the Zags, but scored just two in the second half. Turiaf had 13 points and 13 rebounds in his last college game, but was only 3-for-9 from the free throw line.
After Ross' 3 with 1:06 left put Tech ahead 68-67, Turiaf missed the first of a one-and-one with 49.4 seconds to go. Jackson made one of two free throws with 24.4 seconds to go to boost the lead to 69-67.
Gonzaga outrebounded the Red Raiders 27-14 in the first half, 10-3 on the offensive boards, and stifled Tech's motion offense with a zone defense, taking a 38-29 lead at the break.
Texas Tech's inside play was far better in the second half, and Knight suggested that it was his wife's suggestions that led to the turnaround.
Whatever it was, the change got the Red Raiders back in the game and allowed Jackson and Ross to make the big plays down the stretch.
So Ross is headed back to his home state of New Mexico, where no four-year school offered him a scholarship in high school. And after an 11-year absence, Knight is back in the thick of the NCAA hunt.
"People doubted us," Ross said, "but coach is definitely a great coach. Look where we are now."
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