Gonzaga Captures 8th Straight NCAA Bid
March 6, 2006
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - J.P. Batista's tip-in gave No. 4 Gonzaga the lead late and Loyola Marymount's Chris Ayer missed a layup at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 68-67 on Monday night in the West Coast Conference tournament final.
The Zags (27-3) earned their eighth-consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, but they would have made it even had they lost. Loyola Marymount (12-18) was trying to win their way in and had a great chance to pull the upset.
Trailing by one, the Lions inbounded the ball with 10.6 seconds left and the Gonzaga defense bottled up Brandon Worthy in the corner. He found Ayer's underneath, but he rushed the shot and missed badly.
Despite poor shooting, Gonzaga won the WCC tournament for the third straight time and seventh of the past eight. But it was the first time the event was held in Spokane.
Adam Morrison led all scorers with 23 points, but made only six of 18 field goals. Batista, playing with an injured leg, added 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Loyola Marymount was playing in the WCC title game for the first time in 17 years. They won in 1988 and 1989, behind Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble. It was in the semifinals of the league tournament in 1990 that Gathers collapsed on the court and died.
Gonzaga has won 18 games in a row, tied with George Washington for longest streak in the nation. Gonzaga has also won 40 straight home games, easily the longest streak in the nation, and they are 28-0 in the 2-year-old McCarthey Athletic Center
Loyola Marymount led by eight at halftime, and went on a 12-2 run to take a 48-33 lead with 13:36 left on Worthy's steal and layup and Wes Wardrop's jumper.
Gonzaga replied with a 16-2 run and Morrison's layup, his first basket of the second half, cut Loyola's lead to 50-49 with 7:37 left.
David Pendergraft's two free throws tied the game at 53.
John Haywood's long jumper, Loyola's first field goal in seven minutes, gave the Lions a 55-53 lead with 6:38 left.
Batista's basket tied the game at 59 and two free throws by Morrison gave Gonzaga a 61-59 lead, its first of the second half, with 4:05 left.
Freshman Jeremy Pargo sank a layup and a 3-pointer for a 66-61 Gonzaga lead.
Loyola replied with six straight, with Wardrop's two free throws giving the Lions a 67-66 lead with 1:41 left.
Batista tipped in a Morrison miss for a 68-67 Gonzaga lead with a minute left.
Matthew Knight missed a shot for Loyola, and Batista missed underneath the basket. Loyola rebounded and called timeout with 10.6 seconds left to set up the final sequence.
In the first, Morrison scored the first 12 points for the Zags, who built a 17-13 lead.
But a 3-pointer by Worthy and two by Jon Ziri lifted the Lions to a 24-21 lead.
Gonzaga went the final 8:07 of the first half without a field goal, scoring only five free throws in the span, as Loyola took a 34-26 halftime lead.
The Zags shot only 25 percent in the first half, making seven of 28. They shot only 38 percent in the game, to 42 percent for Loyola.
Loyola Marymount came into the WCC tournament seeded No. 2 based on an 8-6 conference mark. They beat Saint Mary's 66-63 on Sunday. The Zags needed overtime to beat San Diego 96-92 in the semifinals Sunday night.