Gonzaga happy to shed 'bullseye', ready for Carolina - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga happy to shed 'bullseye', ready for Carolina

Josh Heytvelt (left) and Matt Bouldin (right) answered reporters' questions in Memphis on Thursday. Josh Heytvelt (left) and Matt Bouldin (right) answered reporters' questions in Memphis on Thursday.

SPOKANE, Wash. - For Gonzaga, it's kind of different being the David and in a David and Goliath story.  For once, it's not them with a big target on their back, said Josh Heytvelt in the Zags' pregame news conference on Thursday.

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Gonzaga has played the part of the big dog all season long, taking blow after blow in conference play from teams looking to knock them off.  Now, as a No. 4 seed playing against No.1 seed North Carolina the tables are turned.

"It's kind of nice to be the underdog," said Josh Heytvelt. "Most of the season we've had the bullseye on our back - through our conference and a lot of preseason games.  There's a lot of hype with Carolina.  The fans don't expect anything less than the championship from those guys.  To have a little pressure of the back, to be able to come in and play a little bit looser, it's kind of a relief."

The Zags beat UNC two years ago in the preseason NIT, a game both teams remember well.  Both coaches said they'll take lessons from that game, but they also know players and teams aren't exactly what they were that night in the Big Apple.

"We're a lot deeper this year.  We think we have one of the most talented teams we've had here, and I don't know if we really felt like that the night we played [North Carolina] in New York," said Matt Bouldin.

The Tar Heels also feel they're the better team this time around.  Junior guard Wayne Ellington said his team is older, wiser, and motivated.  During Thursday's pregame news conference in Memphis, it was like he was trying to twist the advantage back to the Zags, attempting to make North Carolina the ones who should be considered the underdog.

"I think our mindset going into this game is a lot different," Ellington explained.  "We had a lot of underclassmen back then, and right now we have a lot of motivation going into this game.  They got us pretty good last time we played them, so we're looking forward to the challenge."

Tyler Hansboro agreed, adding that Ty Lawson is playing better this year than he did last year.

"I think [Lawson] has become more of a leader for us," said Ellington.  "He's always been our quarterback out on the court, but I believe he's doing a great job leading by example and just showing a lot of toughness, and I think that kind of gets us going."

Not that the lines matter, but at last check the Zags were 8 point underdogs in Friday's game against the Tar Heels.  Not that that matters much... to most
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