March 3, 2006
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Travis Niesen scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds Friday night as Santa Clara beat Portland 72-68 in the first round of the West Coast Conference basketball tournament at Gonzaga.
Santa Clara (13-15), the sixth seed, will play third-seeded Saint Mary's on Saturday.
Pooh Jeter had 26 points for seventh-seeded Portland (11-18). Portland coach Michael Holton fell to 0-5 in WCC tournament games.
Brody Angley added 17 points for Santa Clara, which shot 44 percent in the game, but made 26 of 32 free throws.
Portland was hampered by 37 percent shooting. Jeter made 7 of 16, but sank all 10 of his free throws. Donald Wilson added 13 for the Pilots.
After a close first half in which Portland led by a point, the teams swapped the lead numerous times through the second.
After Wilson tied the score at 51 for Portland, Santa Clara scored the next nine points - including a 3-pointer and two free throws by Mitch Henke - to take a 60-51 lead with 3:54 left.
But Portland made four consecutive free throws, two after a technical foul on Niesen for contact, and Darren Cooper also scored when the Pilots received the ball after the foul shots. That cut the Broncos' lead to 60-57.
But Niesen hit a free throw and Sean Denison and Henke slipped inside for dunks as Santa Clara rebuilt a 65-59 lead.
The teams exchanged free throws in the final minute.
In the first half, Jeter scored 10 points as Portland jumped to an 18-15 lead.
The teams swapped the lead five times in the final 2:30 of the half, and Wilson's jumper gave Portland a 33-32 halftime lead.