March 8, 2004
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Ronny Turiaf rebounded his own miss and scored the winning basket with 5 seconds left in No. 4 Gonzaga's 19th straight victory, 63-62 over Santa Clara in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament Sunday night.
Turiaf got Gonzaga's last two baskets on putbacks after Blake Stepp's 3-pointer gave Gonzaga its first lead of the second half with 1:41 left.
Cory Violette scored 22 points to lead Gonzaga (26-2), which survived a madcap final two minutes that saw the lead change five times and the Bulldogs score three of their last four baskets after offensive rebounds.
Niesen had given Santa Clara the lead with 25 seconds left before Turiaf's big play.
Gonzaga will play second-seeded Saint Mary's on Monday night for the championship and an automatic NCAA tournament berth. The Gaels defeated Pepperdine 79-74 in the first semifinal, but have lost 16 straight to the Bulldogs.
Saint Mary's, which lost both meetings against Gonzaga this season by a combined 32 points, hasn't made the NCAA tournament in seven years. Gonzaga and Santa Clara met in the WCC tournament title game in 1999 and 2001, with the Bulldogs winning both.
The Broncos led by as many as 11. Doron Perkins had 26 points on 5-for-11 3-point shooting for inspired Santa Clara.
Violette converted a three-point play with 2:42 left to pull Gonzaga within 58-56. Perkins missed a 3 on the other end with the shot clock winding down.
Santa Clara (16-16) beat San Diego and San Francisco in the first and second rounds after finishing the regular-season with an 80-64 loss to Gonzaga in Spokane on Feb. 28. The Bulldogs won the first meeting 79-63 on Jan. 31.
Santa Clara began the second half with a 14-4 spurt, making four 3-pointers, including two straight by Bailey and the other two by Perkins.
Adam Morrison gave the Bulldogs a big boost off the bench late in the first half, scoring four points in an 8-0 run over the final 3:14. That pulled Gonzaga within 29-26 at halftime after trailing by as many as 11.
It was Gonzaga's lowest production in a first half this season and the team shot 34.6 percent. The Bulldogs were held to 27 first-half points in an 87-80 loss to Stanford on Dec. 20.
Here's how well things went early for Santa Clara.
In transition, Bailey dribbled around his back and accidentally turned it into a bounce pass to Perkins, who scored a layin and was fouled for a three-point play to make it 19-8.
Gonzaga, which arrived Friday night and didn't play until Sunday, missed its first four shots and fell behind 11-4. The Bulldogs began the game 5-for-16, with Violette making four of those.