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Gonzaga Tops Santa Clara For WCC Title, 77-68

Gonzaga forward Abdullah Kuso shoots over Santa Clara forward Sean Denison during the first half.
 
Gonzaga forward Abdullah Kuso shoots over Santa Clara forward Sean Denison during the first half.
 
 

March 5, 2007

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Derek Raivio scored 28 points and Gonzaga earned a spot in the NCAA tournament with a 77-68 victory over Santa Clara in the West Coast Conference championship game Monday night.

Top-seeded Gonzaga (23-10) has been to the NCAA tournament the past eight years, but a turbulent season had thrown a ninth trip into some doubt.

The Bulldogs, who finished the regular season one game ahead of Santa Clara in the WCC, have won eight of the last nine WCC tournaments, with the streak interrupted only by San Diego in 2003.

The Zags led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but it was David Pendergraft's 3-pointer with 4:36 left that made it 61-52 and all but put the game in hand.

The Broncos threatened with a minute left in the game when Joey Kaempf's 3-pointer narrowed it to 73-68. Gonzaga answered with Micah Downs' dunk and a pair of free throws made by Raivio for the final margin.

Gonzaga had a bye until the semifinals at the University of Portland's Chiles Center. The Bulldogs advanced with an 88-70 victory over fifth-seeded San Diego.

Second-seeded Santa Clara (21-10) beat St. Mary's 63-47 to advance to the final. The Broncos have not been to the NCAA tournament since 1996, Steve Nash's senior year.

Matt Bouldin added 14 points for the Zags and Downs had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

But after the game, the fans chanted "Raivio! Raivio! Raivio!"

Raivio's father, Rick, was a standout at host Portland and his name hangs from a banner in the rafters of the university's Chiles Center as part of the school's Hall of Fame.

Scott Dougherty led Santa Clara with 16 points.

With a difficult nonconference schedule, the Bulldogs 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 Division I home winning streak at 50 games.

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 when they beat Gonzaga 84-73 in Spokane.

Broncos coach 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.

Gonzaga fans traveled in droves from Spokane, some seven hours drive away, and far outnumbered the Broncos' fans. They were stunned when Santa Clara took a first-half lead on a flurry of 3-pointers.

Kaempf hit two consecutive 3s, including a seemingly impossible fadeaway from out front, to put the Broncos up 25-18.

Then Mitch Henke got hot, hitting a long jumper from just inside the line and then a 3-pointer to make it 30-21 for Santa Clara.

Gonzaga rallied, going on a 10-1 run - including consecutive 3-pointers Bouldin - to tie it at 31.

Raivio's 3-pointer before the break put the Bulldogs ahead 40-35, their first lead since the opening minute. Raivio led all scorers with 14 points in the first half.

Raivio's fadeaway jumper put the Bulldogs up 48-38.

2007 WCC All-Tournament Team

Derek Raivio, Gonzaga (MVP)
Micah Downs, Gonzaga
David Pendergraft, Gonzaga
Scott Dougherty, Santa Clara
Ross DeRogatis, San Diego