Gonzaga-Tennessee: Zags Get Needed Win Over No. 25 Volunteers

Shay CroninCorrespondent IJanuary 7, 2009

It took an extra five minutes of basketball, but the stumbling Gonzaga Bulldogs were able to hang on to beat the No. 25 Tennessee Volunteers 89-79, beating the Vols for the second time this year and ending their 37-game home winning streak.

This was possibly the most important win of the year for Mark Few's team, which has lost four out of their last five games, including an embarrassing home loss to Portland State in late December.

Gonzaga's Matt Bouldin led all scorers with 26 points, a new career high for the junior guard.  Austin Daye netted 20, including a 3 for 4 night from beyond the arc for the talented sophomore.

Tennessee's Tyler Smith scored with an inside floater late in the second half to make it 73-73 and force overtime.  Gonzaga took advantage of the Volunteers' sloppy play in the extra session and converted on 9 of 10 shots from the free throw line.

The Zags' first victory over Tennessee came in the final of the Old Spice Classic on Nov. 30, when the then 10th-ranked team beat the Vols 83-74 in Orlando.

This was an important game for Gonzaga, having fallen from a top five ranking to out of the most recent top 25 poll.  With only three more "legitimate" games on their schedule due to the relative weakness of the West Coast Conference outside of St. Mary's, the Zags could ill afford to waste an opportunity to impress on national television.

For Tennessee, it was another loss for a team that has been somewhat disappointing midway through the season.  The loss likely insures that Bruce Pearl's team will fall from the ranks of the top 25, a distinction shared by no other SEC team this week, though likely to change with the Arkansas Razorbacks' victory over Texas on Tuesday night.

Both teams will begin conference play on Saturday: The Zags will host the Portland Pilots, while the Vols will travel to Athens to play last year's SEC tournament champions, the Georgia Bulldogs.