Zags & Pitt: 'We came for the Marines'
CAMP FOSTER ¬- Pittsburgh and Gonzaga made a long trip to Japan to play a college basketball game. It must have seemed a lot longer when they only got to play 20 minutes.
The Armed Forces Classic between No. 9 Gonzaga and the Panthers was canceled at halftime Nov. 14 because of slippery conditions on the court at Foster Field House on Okinawa.
Japan Standard Time is 14 hours ahead of the Eastern Time zone, meaning the game was played on Saturday morning in Japan.
Pittsburgh was leading 37-35 at halftime and the second half never got started.
Both coaches expressed disappointment with the decision, but agreed it had to be made.
"The way the court was, we just couldn't finish it," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "It was about who didn't fall down, that's what the game was coming down to. Whoever didn't fall was probably going to make a play. We tried and the officials called it. I don't know what else to do."
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said it was still a once-in-a-lifetime experience in more than one way.
"It was tough, coming this far. But we came for the experience, we came for the Marines and we're certain we accomplished that goal," Dixon said. "We came for a win, too, and I guess we got half a win."
Ryan Luther gave the Panthers a 37-35 lead with a three-point play on a rebound with 5.4 seconds left in the half.
Michael Young had 11 points for Pittsburgh and Kyle Wiltjer had 15 for the Bulldogs.
This was the fourth year the Armed Forces Classic was held, the second time in the Pacific and the first time on Japanese soil. Oregon beat Georgetown 82-75 two years ago when the Classic was held at the Super Gym at Camp Humphreys, 60 miles south of Seoul, South Korea. It was also the first time the Marine Corps hosted the game.
TIP-INS: Pomp was evident throughout pre-game festivities, with elements of the III Marine Expeditionary Force band playing the anthems of Japan and the United States, and the Marine color guard presenting the flags of both nations. Uniformed personnel from all services ringed the seats surrounding the court at the Foster Field House.
Members of both team's coaching staffs, including the head coaches, wore desert-issue combat boots and trousers and eschewed jackets and ties, while players on each team sported camouflage shorts. Gonzaga's warmup shirts bore the inscription "United We Stand."