January 9, 2006

Santa Clara Fights but Falls to No. 6 Gonzaga 81-68

Jan. 10, 2006

Final Stats

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - Adam Morrison scored, passed, rebounded, trash-talked and even found time to provide his coach with some input.

At halftime, Morrison told Gonzaga coach Mark Few to run some sets for J.P. Batista.

Morrison had 34 points, six rebounds and five assists and No. 6 Gonzaga got through its toughest conference road trip unscathed, beating Santa Clara 81-68 on Monday night.

"He said, 'We've got to get the big fella the ball,"' Few said. "I don't want to lose site of just how amazing he's playing. It's sad you almost come to expect it. We had some guys who were struggling and kind of rattled, especially early there, and he just carried us."

Derek Raivio added 18 points and five rebounds and the Bulldogs won their 11th straight West Coast Conference regular-season game dating to last season. Batista bounced back from a slow start to score five straight during one stretch midway through the second half and finish with 11 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot.

Morrison's three-point play with 6:54 left in the first half moved him by John Stockton on the school's all-time scoring list. He shot 12-for-20 and made 8 of his 9 free throws and Gonzaga (12-3, 2-0 WCC) shot 43-of-47 from the line in its two wins in Northern California.

Morrison, the nation's leading scorer who came in averaging 27.6 points, moved past Stockton (1,340), Cory Violette (1,342) and Bill Suter (1,354) for 13th place on the school's career scoring list with 1,361.

Travis Niesen scored Santa Clara's first five baskets of the second half and finished with 22 points and six rebounds. Brody Angley added 14 points and six assists for the Broncos (8-6, 1-1), who had their three-game winning streak stopped.

Like every other team that plays the Zags, the Broncos were left wondering how to best defend Gonzaga.

"Adam Morrison is a great player," Niesen said. "It really helps when you have Batista and Raivio as well. You can't just take away Morrison. But, he works hard and deserves everything he gets during the game. I have a lot of respect for him."

The Broncos lost a heartbreaker to Gonzaga in the sold-out Leavey Center, where 10 NBA scouts requested seats for the game and band members among the 4,500 fans held a giant cardboard mustache to make fun of Morrison's facial hair. It's becoming a common prop for Gonzaga opposing fans in the WCC - Saint Mary's students sported stick-on mustaches.

"The big difference in the game from our perspective was we didn't make enough shots," Santa Clara coach Dick Davey said. "Maybe the emotions of the game just took us out of a good rhythm."

Gonzaga still must return to the Bay Area to play San Francisco on Jan. 23 after the Dons handed the Zags one of their two WCC losses last season.

The Broncos have had their share of close games with the Zags at home, losing their last two by five total points.

Gonzaga, which moved up two spots in Monday's rankings, won last season's meeting at Santa Clara 91-87, but the Bulldogs produced a 92-75 rout almost a month later.

In the 2004 WCC tournament at the Leavey Center, Santa Clara lost a 63-62 in the semifinals of the conference tournament.

Santa Clara freshman center John Bryant, 6-foot-10 and 320 pounds - and his size-18 wide feet - helped plug up the middle and alter Batista's game.

Batista, Gonzaga's second-leading scorer behind Morrison at 19.1 points, played only 13 minutes and took one shot in the first half. He picked up his second foul at the 5:58 mark. Batista missed shots on the Bulldogs' first two possessions of the second half, then had a turnover when he got the ball inside a few minutes later before scoring his first points with a short jumper at 17:05.

Santa Clara started the game 0-for-8 but got six offensive rebounds early. After beginning 1-for-10, the Broncos made 10 of their next 19 shots and stayed within 39-34 at halftime despite shooting 35.3 percent to 55.6 by Gonzaga and making only one basket in the final 5:54.

Center Sean Denison returned for the Broncos after missing the last eight games with a stress fracture in his right foot.