March 5, 2007
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Derek Raivio scored 28 points and Gonzaga earned a spot in the NCAA tournament with a 77-68 victory over Santa Clara in the West Coast Conference championship game Monday night. The Broncos had an early nine-point lead, but fell behind in the second half and could not come back.
The Broncos had beaten Gonzaga on Feb. 12 to snap the Bulldogs 50-game home winning streak in the last meeting, but the Broncos could not get their second straight win over the Zags.
The Bulldogs, who finished the regular season one game ahead of Santa Clara in the WCC, have won eight of the last nine WCC tournaments, with the streak interrupted only by San Diego in 2003.
The Zags led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but it was David Pendergraft's 3-pointer with 4:36 left that made it 61-52 and all but put the game in hand.
The Broncos threatened with a minute left in the game when Joey Kaempf's 3-pointer narrowed it to 73-68. SCU then had a chance to get closer, but Scott Dougherty had a three-point attempt blocked and Kaempf missed another three moments later. Gonzaga answered with Micah Downs' dunk and a pair of free throws made by Raivio for the final margin.
Gonzaga had a bye until the semifinals at the University of Portland's Chiles Center. The Bulldogs advanced with an 88-70 victory over fifth-seeded San Diego.
Second-seeded Santa Clara (21-10) beat St. Mary's 63-47 to advance to the final. The Broncos have not been to the NCAA tournament since 1996, Steve Nash's senior year.
Matt Bouldin added 14 points for the Zags and Downs had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Broncos lost their final two regular season games at Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine, snapping a six-game winning streak.
Gonzaga fans traveled in droves from Spokane, some seven hours drive away, and far outnumbered the Broncos' fans. They were stunned when Santa Clara took a first-half lead on a flurry of 3-pointers.
Kaempf hit two consecutive 3s, including a seemingly impossible fadeaway from out front, to put the Broncos up 25-18.
Then Mitch Henke got hot, hitting a long jumper from just inside the line and then a 3-pointer to make it 30-21 for Santa Clara.
Gonzaga rallied, going on a 10-1 run - including consecutive 3-pointers Bouldin - to tie it at 31.
Raivio's 3-pointer before the break put the Bulldogs ahead 40-35, their first lead since the opening minute. Raivio led all scorers with 14 points in the first half.
Raivio's fadeaway jumper put the Bulldogs up 48-38, but the Broncos rallied to keep the game close until the final minute.
Santa Clara will get back to practice later this week as the team awaits word on the postseason. The NCAA Tournament and the NIT will announce their brackets on Sunday, March 11. Stay tuned to SantaClaraBroncos.com for more information on the Broncos' postseason.