Mar 8- Gonzaga defeated Saint Mary's 84-71 to win the WCC conference tournament and claim the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament
Gonzaga 84, Saint Mary's 71
Santa Clara, CA.-Gonzaga defeated Saint Marys 84-71 in the WCC Mens Basketball Tournament Championship game. This is Gonzagas sixth tournament championship and fifth in the last six years. The Bulldogs have won 20 straight games as they enter the NCAA Tournament.
In the first half, Gonzaga took a 27-19 lead on a break away dunk by Ronny Turiaf. The All-WCC first teamer recorded a double-double in the first half with 14 points and 11 rebounds, including seven offensive boards. The Zags owned the glass in the first half with a 26-13 advantage. A layup by Turiaf at the 1:02 mark gave Gonzaga its largest lead of the half at 39-25. SMCs E.J. Rowland sprinted down court to end the half with a lay up just before the halftime buzzer to cut the Bulldogs lead to 39-29 at halftime. Rowland recorded eight points and added three assists and two steals in the first half. The all-tournament guard finished the night with 16 points and five assists.
In the second half, Gonzaga took a 50-36 advantage when Fredric Adjiwanou scored a lay-up and a free-throw, while Jonathan Sanders hit a short jumper to cut the lead to 50-41. Adjiwanou nailed a bucket and another free-throw to cut the lead to 60-53 with 11:41 left. A rebound and putback by SMCs Paul Marigney cut the deficit to 62-57. Turiaf put the lead back to double figures, 69-59 with a layup and free-throw at the 7:37 mark. A three-pointer by SMCs Tyler Herr and a pair of Rowland free-throws cut the Zag lead to 70-66 at the 5:00 mark. A three-pointer by Tony Skinner and a three-point play by Turiaf extended the lead to 76-66. The Gaels would get no closer than eight points the rest of the way as Blake Stepp nailed four free-throws down the stretch on the way to 19 points and six assists on the night.
Stepps 19 points places him 3rd all-time on the WCC Tournament scoring list with 163 points. Tournament MVP Ronny Turiaf led all scorers with 29 points and 14 rebounds. Joining Turiaf on the all-tournament team were teammates Stepp and Cory Violette. Stepp becomes the second player in tournament history to be named all-tournament for four years. Saint Marys E.J. Rowland and Santa Claras Doron Perkins were also all-tournament selections.
The NCAA Tournament Brackets will be announced on March 14th.
2004 WCC ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM