Feb. 17, 2007
SANTA CLARA (AP) - Sean Denison had 18 points and 12 rebounds and Santa Clara maintained its hold on first place in the West Coast Conference with a 80-72 win over San Diego in Dick Davey's final home game as coach of the Broncos. With the win, SCU clinched one of the top two seeds in the conference tournament, meaning that the team will start play in the semifinals of the tournament.
The Broncos, who ended Gonzaga's 50-game home winning streak on Monday, inched closer to ending the Bulldogs' six-year stranglehold on the WCC title. Santa Clara needs just one win in its final two games to clinch a share of the conference championship, something the Broncos haven't done since 1997.
Davey, the veteran coach in his 15th season at Santa Clara, announced his retirement on Feb. 1. The Broncos haven't lost since.
San Diego made Davey sweat this one out. Trailing 60-46 after Mitch Henke's two free throws midway in the second half, the Toros pulled within 67-63 on Nir Cohen's three-point play with 4:08 left.
That's when Denison went to work, making six straight free throws and scoring on a left-handed putback as Santa Clara pushed its lead to 78-67 and cruised the rest of the way.
A standing room only crowd gave Davey a minute-long standing ovation when the veteran coach was introduced before the game and highlights of his career flashed on the scoreboard throughout the evening.
At the end of the night, the fans in the student section serenaded the night's honoree with chants of "Thank you, Davey." San Diego coach Brad Holland and his assistants all wore blue argyle sweaters, further testament to Davey's legacy. Santa Clara's dance team also wore sweaters in Davey's honor.
As for the 64-year-old coach himself, Davey barely acknowledged the pre-game ovation but did give a thumbs-up to the crowd. After the game, Davey made a brief return to the court for another standing ovation from the crowd at the Leavey Center but left without speaking.
Instead, Davey took satisfaction in his team extending its winning streak to six while maintaining a one-game lead over Gonzaga in the WCC standings.
That '97 WCC championship was the last of three straight for Davey and Santa Clara.
Santa Clara opened the game shooting 58.6 percent in the first half and led 42-31 at the break despite giving up 10 offensive rebounds to San Diego. The Toreros didn't help themselves, however, going 0-for-10 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes.
The Broncos reached the 20-win plateau for the fourth time in Davey's career and the team has now won 10 conference games. SCU has won 10 conference games five times during Davey's tenure as head coach.
Santa Clara travels to Southern California next weekend to take on Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine to conclude the WCC regular season. The Broncos face Loyola Marymount on Saturday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. PT live on College Sports Television. If the Broncos beat the Lions, they would clinch the top seed in the conference tournament. SCU then wraps up the season on Monday, Feb. 26 at 7:00 p.m. PT at Pepperdine. That final game can be heard live on 1220 KNTS and SantaClaraBroncos.com.