March 4, 2007
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - John Bryant had 14 points and Santa Clara beat St. Mary's 63-47 Sunday night to advance to the West Coast Conference tournament final against Gonzaga.
The winner of Monday night's title game gets an automatic NCAA tournament berth. Top seed Gonzaga beat fifth-seeded San Diego 88-70 in the other semifinal game at the University of Portland's Chiles Center.
The second-seeded Broncos (21-9) finished second to Gonzaga in the WCC standings. They had a bye until the semifinals, while third-seeded St. Mary's (17-15) defeated seventh-seeded Portland 87-47 in the quarterfinals.
Santa Clara, which swept the two-game regular season series, held off a St. Mary's rally midway through the second half. Sean Denison's dunk with 1:08 left made it 58-47, sealing it for the Broncos.
Tempers flared briefly after St. Mary's Brett Collins slammed into Santa Clara's Scott Dougherty as he went up for a layup. Collins was ejected from the game.
Collins was the only Gael in double figures with 13 points.
The Broncos lost their final two regular season games at Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine, snapping a six-game winning streak. Their biggest win came on Feb. 12 at Gonzaga, when they snapped the Bulldogs' 50-game winning streak at home with an 84-73 victory.
Santa Clara's Dick Davey was voted WCC coach of the year, breaking a string of six consecutive coach titles for Gonzaga coach Mark Few. Davey is retiring after this season.
It was a tight and scrappy first half, but Santa Clara went on a late 9-0 run capped by Mitch Jenke's 3-pointer that made it 33-28 at the half.
Santa Clara jumped out to a 39-28 lead to open the second, but the Gaels kept up and narrowed it to 41-39 on Collins' 3-pointer and Wayne Hunter's layup.
The Broncos extended their lead again to 49-41, with the 6-foot-11 Bryant scoring on a layup and two free throws.