Jan. 11, 2002
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
Associated Press Writer
SPOKANE, Wash. - All that talk about No. 18 Gonzaga waltzing through the West Coast Conference didn't matter much when Santa Clara started sinking 3-pointers, said Gonzaga forward Zach Gourde.
Gourde scored 14 of his 15 points in the second half as the Bulldogs survived a furious comeback by Santa Clara to defeat the Broncos 83-81 in the conference opener for both teams.
"When you go into the league it's war," Gourde said. "You've been playing against the same guys for years. It's a bloody drag-out brawl every night."
Santa Clara (5-9) had won four straight coming into the game, but didn't figure to be much trouble for Gonzaga (14-2).
But Steve Ross hit a career high 38 points, including seven of 14 3-pointers, as the Broncos erased a 12-point halftime deficit.
Dan Dickau scored 29 points, including several 3-pointers late in the second half that kept Santa Clara from taking the lead.
"We're going to get everybody's best shot," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after the Bulldogs won their 11th consecutive game and recorded their best start since the 1966-67 season. "Teams come in here with nothing to lose."
Kyle Bailey added 17 points for Santa Clara, which outscored the Bulldogs 53-43 in the second half. Santa Clara made nine of its 12 3-pointers in the second half.
"This is a positive experience for our guys," said Santa Clara coach Dick Davey, whose team began the season 1-8. "It will help us down the road."
Ross shrugged off a game in which he also led the Broncos with nine rebounds.
"What matters is the final score," said Ross, who had never scored more than 23 in a college game.
Gonzaga leads the nation in rebound margin by grabbing 13 more boards per game than its rivals. But Santa Clara outrebounded the Bulldogs 41-33.
"Sometimes the ball bounces right for you," Davey said.
Ross had 22 points in the second half for the Broncos, who trailed 40-28 at halftime.
But the Broncos cut Gonzaga's lead to 50-45 on a 3-pointer by Justin Holbrook. Ross was fouled making a basket and hit the free throw to make it 50-48 with 13:31 left.
Gourde scored and then Dickau was fouled making a 3-pointer. Dickau sank the free throw to rebuild Gonzaga's lead to 56-48.
Holbrook's 3-pointer brought Santa Clara within 60-59. But Dickau responded with a pair of 3-pointers to lift Gonzaga to a 66-59 lead.
The Bulldogs led 77-69 with 3:22 left, and their full-court press slowed the Broncos' attack as time ticked off the clock.
Kyle Bailey's 3-pointer for Santa Clara cut Gonzaga's lead to 79-76 with 25 seconds left.
But the Broncos were forced to foul, and Blake Stepp sank two free throws before Bailey sank a jumper to make it 81-78 with 13 seconds left. Stepp then sank one of two free throws. Bailey's 3-point attempt bounced off the front of the rim to end Santa Clara's hopes. Ross hit a final 3-pointer for the Broncos as time expired.
In the first half, Anthony Reason's slam on an alley opp punctuated a 10-0 Gonzaga run, giving it a 13-7 lead midway through a ragged first half when neither team shot better than 39 percent.
Cory Violette scored eight straight points - a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched around a pair of free throws - as Gonzaga built a 32-19 lead with 3:24 left in the first half.
Dickau's jumper at the buzzer gave Gonzaga a 40-28 halftime lead. Dickau had 13 points in the first half, while Ross had 16.
Ross sank seven 3-pointers in the game, and the Broncos had 12.