Benny's World

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Little Engine that Could

Red Raiders rally behind Ross' 24, earn spot in Sweet 16

March 19, 2005 wire reports

"TUCSON, Ariz. -- Bob Knight is back. Ronald Ross made sure of that.

Knight's Texas Tech Red Raiders rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to beat Gonzaga 71-69 on Saturday to advance to the semifinals of the Albuquerque Regional.

Ross, the sharpshooter who walked on as a freshman four years ago and became one of the best guards in the Big 12 under Knight's guidance, sank a 3-pointer from the corner to put sixth-seeded Tech up 68-67 with 1:06 to play, then sealed the victory by making both halves of a one-and-one with 7.5 seconds remaining.

Ross and Knight hugged in the final seconds as it became obvious that a Knight-coached team would make it to a regional semifinal for the first time since 1994.

When it ended, Knight's wife Karen joined the coach on the court, crying and hugging him. It was an emotional scene around the crusty coach whose 854 career victories are just 25 shy of Dean Smith's NCAA Division I record.

Ross scored 24 points - giving him 102 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.

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. "

The TTU Raiders have not been to a Sweet 16 in nearly 10 years. Whether one likes Bobby Knight or not, his team functioned as a team. They made several mistakes, got off-balanced, showed their hand (offensive strategy) too quickly at times, but in the end, TTU's defensive plays were aggressive, and the Zags saw a 13 point lead melt. They had one really good player, Morrison, but the team relied too heavily on him to make all of the big plays. Teams win games when they function like teams. Bob Knight's Red Raiders did. And like a little known man from Robbins, NC who won a US Senate seat in 1998, they were the little engine that could: with heart, faith, and endurance.

The other little engine that could is TTU's next opponent, West Virginia, who beat Wake Forrest in double OT.


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