This Day in March Madness History
March 19, 1999
Gonzaga vs. Florida
- The Setup
Gonzaga was making just their second NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, and they’d already experienced far more success than their initial run. Their first tournament ended in the Round of 64, and, handed a 10-seed, it didn’t seem that Gonzaga was destined to go much further than that in 1999. The Bulldogs notched their first NCAA Tournament win by surprising Minnesota in the first round, but they captured the nation’s attention when they stunned second-seeded Stanford in the Round of 32, topping the Cardinal by a score of 82-74.
Florida was making their first tournament appearance since 1995, and they had secured their first tournament win since 1994, when they made the Final Four. As the sixth seed in the region, the Gators handled #11 Pennsylvania in the opening round, and they were the beneficiary of #14 Weber State shocking third-seeded North Carolina. Florida had few issues with Weber State and advanced to the Sweet 16.
- How it went down
Gonzaga appeared to be one of the few teams that could match and even exceed Florida’s depth. Florida got at least 15 minutes of playing time from eight different players, but Gonzaga saw nine players play at least ten minutes, while ten different players scored. Richie Frahm led the offensive attack with a 5-8 shooting performance from beyond the arc, leading him to 17 points on the night. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 26-13 lead, and they led throughout the half, but they allowed Florida to climb back within a point at 35-34 at halftime.
Although Florida rarely led, they stayed right with Gonzaga, and they occasionally surged into the lead on the strength of 6’9 Greg Stolt, who was a force both inside and outside the arc. It was one of Stolt’s four three-pointers that gifted the Gators a 59-58 lead with a little over six minutes to play. With 45 seconds to play, he snapped a 69-69 tie with another triple, but it was the last time Florida scored.
After a Gonzaga layup, Florida would travel, giving the Bulldogs a chance to win it. Quentin Hall put up a runner in the lane with six seconds left and it bounced off the back rim. However, Casey Calvary got up over everyone, sprinting in to leap and tip in the rebound with 4.4 seconds to go. Florida charged down the court, and their attempt at a game-winner from the right shoulder clanged off the rim. As the play-by-play announcer screamed: “GONZAGA. The slipper still fits!”
- The Aftermath
Gonzaga’s slipper did shatter in the Elite Eight, as they lost to the region’s top seed in Connecticut, which went on to claim its first national title. Gonzaga has not missed an NCAA tournament since their Cinderella run, but they did not make it back to the Elite Eight until 2015.
Florida actually did exceed their 1999 success very quickly, making the national championship the following season, and eventually winning back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
- NBA Notables (teams they played 100+ games with)
Gonzaga – Richie Frahm (5 teams, 5 years)
Florida – Mike Miller (Grizzlies, Magic, Heat), Udonis Haslem (Heat, 2004-Present)