March 4, 2007
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - David Pendergraft had 22 points and Gonzaga moved closer to an automatic NCAA tournament berth with an 88-70 victory over San Diego in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament Sunday night.
Top-seeded Gonzaga (21-10) will face the winner of the late game between second-seeded Santa Clara and St. Mary's in the final on Monday.
The Bulldogs, who finished the regular season one game ahead of Santa Clara in the WCC, had a bye until the semifinals at the University of Portland's Chiles Center. Fifth-seeded San Diego (18-13) defeated San Francisco 77-75 on Saturday to advance.
Derek Raivio, whose father was a standout at Portland, had 14 points for Gonzaga, while Micah Downs added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Ross DeRogatis, San Diego's senior point guard, had 17 points in the loss. When he left the game in the final minutes, he hugged his coaches and was cheered by fans.
With a difficult non-conference schedule, the Zags dropped from the Top 25 this season for the first time in several years. Then came the Feb. 9 arrest of forward Josh Heytvelt, who was averaging 15 points and seven rebounds per game.
Heytvelt, charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, has been suspended indefinitely.
Shortly thereafter, Gonzaga lost to Santa Clara, ending the nation's longest home winning streak at 50 games.
The Zags had no trouble against the Toreros.
Brandon Johnson hit a pair of free throws to tie it at 19 for San Diego. That's when the Zags took over, going on a 10-0 run. Pendergraft's layup off Raivio's perfectly placed pass, and Raivio's own layup, capped the run that gave Gonzaga a 29-19 lead.
Bulldog fans who packed the Chiles Center cheered loudest in the first half for 7-foot-4 freshman Will Foster, who had played only briefly in nine games this season. Foster sparked the defense with his surprising athleticism in just five minutes of play.
Gonzaga led 40-26 at halftime.
Pendergraft hit back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the second half to give the Zags a 64-46 lead. But San Diego answered with a 7-0 run that narrowed it to 64-53. It was as close as they would come in the second half.
The Bulldogs have won seven of the last eight WCC tournaments, with the streak interrupted only by San Diego in 2003.