Examiner.com Nevada Wolf Pack reporter Joe Santoro takes a look at the Nevada Wolf Pack's four NCAA Tournament victories between 2004-2007. This is the second installment of the series and looks back at the Wolf Pack's historic 91-72 victory over Gonzaga on March 20, 2004 in Seattle, Wash., that sent the school to the 2004 Sweet 16.
For five glorious days in March of 2004, the Nevada Wolf Pack was the Cinderella story of college basketball.
And they beat a Cinderella to get there.
Not many experts, though, gave the Wolf Pack much of a chance on March 20, 2004 at Seattle's Key Arena. The opponent, after all, was the nation's darling from Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs, led by coach Mark Few, had already been the country's favorite underdog by 2004. And now the Zags were the unquestioned favorite, earning the No 2 seed in the St. Louis Regional. All they had to do to get to the Sweet 16 was beat a bunch of unknowns, the No. 10-seeded Wolf Pack, a program playing in its first NCAA Tournament in 19 years.
Yes, the Pack looked strong in beating Michigan State 72-66 two days earlier. But this was Gonzaga with a Sweet 16 berth on the line. This was different.
It turned out to be quite different, as a matter of fact.
Gonzaga led for a grand total of 47 seconds. Sean Mallon hit a 3-pointer for a 7-5 Gonzaga lead and 47 seconds later Gary Hill-Thomas drained a 3-pointer to give the Pack a 10-7 advantage with 16:09 left in the first half.
Out with the old Cinderella and in with the new. Just like that.
The Wolf Pack, thanks to plucky point guard Todd Okeson, stunned the Bulldogs mid-way through the first half. Okeson connected on a 3-pointer for a 24-13 Pack lead with 12:09 to go and promptly pounded his chest. He did it again with 11:28 to go for a 27-13 lead.
The Pack wasn't just playing right with the favored Bulldogs. They were dominating them.
Kirk Snyder drained a 3-pointer for a 34-16 lead with 8:57 to go off an assist by Okeson. Nick Fazekas got into the act, connecting from long distance for a 46-26 lead with 3:22 to go before halftime.
Gonzaga made a little run in the final three minutes of the first half, cutting the Pack lead to 47-32 at the intermission. And the Bulldogs , not willing to simply hand over their Cinderella title so easily, pulled to within 49-40 on a Cory Violette lay-up with 17:08 to go in the game.
Mallon then sliced the Pack led to 53-44 with 14:42 to go and Fazekas missed a three with 13:47 left and it suddenly began to look like the Pack's Cinderella story wouldn't even reach midnight.
But then the Wolf Pack took back control of the game with defense. Fazekas blocked a lay-up attempt by Violette with 13:33 to go and Okeson stole the ball from Violette with 13:27 to go and drove the length of the court for a lay-up and a 55-44 Pack lead.
That defensive flurry from Fazekas and Okeson killed Gonzaga's momentum and got the Pack back on track. From then on, it was just a matter of the clock ticking away.
Okeson hit a jumper and a 3-pointer 45 seconds apart for a 63-52 lead. Kevinn Pinkney completed a 3-point play for a 68-54 lead with 8L:12 to go. Snyder then connected on a pair of threes as the Pack led 76-61 with 4:51 to go.
Pinkney kept the Zags under control with a jumper and a dunk 33 seconds apart for an 82-68 lead with 1:52 to go. And Snyder put the finishing touches on what is arguably the greatest victory in the history of Wolf Pack sports with a 3-pointer with 30 seconds to go and a 91-72 lead.
The Pack simply overwhelmed the Bulldogs with one of the greatest and most productive performances by its starting five in school history.
Pinkney had 20 points and eight rebounds. Okeson had 19 points and seven assists. Snyder had 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Fazekas had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Hill-Thomas chipped in with 10 points, five assists and three rebounds.
Gonzaga got 16 points and 11 boards from Violette but a 3-for-18 shooting performance and 13 points from West Coast Conference Player of the Year Blake Stepp turned their season into a pumpkin.
Ronny Tuuriaf battled foul trouble all game and finished with 13 points in just 15 minutes. Adam Morrison came off the bench to score 14 points in 23 minutes.
But it wasn't nearly enough to stop the Pack.
The Pack's Cinderella season would end five days later in St. Louis with a 72-66 loss to Georgia Tech.
But those five days between Gonzaga and Georgia Tech will never be forgotten in northern Nevada.