Men’s Basketball Battled No. 4-ranked Gonzaga Before Falling 77-68 in WCC Semifinal

Men’s Basketball Battled No. 4-ranked Gonzaga Before Falling 77-68 in WCC Semifinal

WCC Championships Central | VIDEO: Highlights | VIDEO: Postgame Press Conference

LAS VEGAS – Gonzaga's Nigel Williams-Goss did most of his damage close to the basket in Monday's West Coast Conference Tournament semifinal, but his lone 3-pointer turned out to be the key bucket against Santa Clara men's basketball in its season finale.

Williams-Goss posted 25 points on 9 of 13 from the floor while Przemek Karnowski scored 19 and Johnathan Williams tallied 11 for the top-seeded and No. 4/4-ranked Bulldogs (30-1) who advanced to their 20th straight league tournament title game with a 77-68 victory over the Broncos by connecting on 56 percent shooting from the floor.

Jared Brownridge tried to carry the fouth-seeded Broncos (17-16) by scoring a game-high 32 points, including 21 in the second half when they trailed by as many as a 15. That point total was a school record for the WCC Tournament, breaking his own mark and that of Kyle Bailey. Brownridge had 30 against BYU on March 5, 2016 and Bailey posted the same amount vs. USF on March 6, 2004.

Brownridge scored eight straight points for Santa Clara to cut the deficit to 68-63 with 2:01 remaining, but on the ensuing possession Williams-Goss nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with the shot clock winding down.

After a pair of free throws by the Broncos' Emmanuel Ndumanya, Zach Collins calmly hit another 3-pointer to push the lead to 74-65 with 47 seconds left.

Gonzaga hit three of four free throws in the final 29 seconds to secure the win.

Brownridge, who extended his school record by scoring 30-plus points for the 12th time, connected on 12 of 25 from the floor, but the Broncos shot just 41 percent as a team and were out-scored 46-28 in the paint with Karnowski and Williams-Goss doing much of the damage.

"You have to give Gonzaga tremendous credit," Santa Clara head coach Herb Sendek said. "They are a really good team. They made a few more plays than we did, but we battled in a way that gave ourselves a chance. Not a big chance, but that gave us a chance."

Matt Hauser (13) was the only other Santa Clara player in double figures. Nate Kratch, who along with Brownridge played his final game as a Bronco, tallied nine points and had six rebounds.

Williams-Goss had a team highs in rebounds (eight) and assists, and Collins added nine for Gonzaga, which was just 3-for-10 from behind the 3-point line. The Broncos went 9 of 25.

A Collins layup increased the lead to 56-41 with 10:58 left in a game that appeared to be getting away from the underdog Broncos who were making their first appearance in the WCC Tournament semifinals in six years.

But Brownridge, Hauser and Kratch sparked a 10-0 run. Brownridge sandwiched two 3-pointers around a Hauser jumper and Kratch capped it with a dunk.

But Gonzaga pushed the lead back to double digits before Santa Clara's final run.

The Broncos were seeking their first appearance in the WCC Tournament final since 2007, but they ended the year as the most improved team in the league with a five-game overall increase (11-20 in 2015-16) in Sendek's first season which was marred by injuries. With its win, Gonzaga equaled that improvement (28-8 last year).

KJ Feagin missed his second-straight game after suffering a concussion in practice last week. He missed the first 12 games of the season with a foot injury and was one of seven players to miss more than a total of 70 contests.

"It was a special year," Brownridge said. "Everybody on the team and all of our coaches and everything we have been through and getting to know each other."

The Broncos, who posted a season-low five turnovers, were able to hang around early in the game by connecting from the outside, while the Bulldogs were able to score down low.

Santa Clara went 4 of 6 from behind the 3-point line to start the game and Gonzaga scored 20 of its first 24 points in the paint.

But the Broncos went cold after Brownridge's layup tied the game at 24-all with 6:54 left in the half. They missed seven straight from the floor while the Bulldogs scored 10 in a row with Williams-Goss capping the run with three field goals.

Team Notes: Tonight's game was the 89th meeting in the series, which began in 1946. The Bulldogs won their 15th-straight game, including eight in a row in the WCC Tournament, against the Broncos. The Bulldogs now lead 59-30 … Santa Clara also had the best turnaround in league play this season with a three-game improvement (7-11 in 2015-16). Gonzaga, USF, LMU and San Diego each had a two-game increase in win total.

Individual Notes: Brownridge ended his career with 2,313 points, second all-time in school history and fourth on the WCC list. He was just 10 points behind Tyler Hawes of BYU (2,323/2012-15) on the league chart … in seven career WCC Tournament games, Brownridge averaged 26.0 points on 46.8 percent shooting from the floor, including 45.3 from behind the 3-point line, and 92.1 percent from the free-throw line … Brownridge and Kratch each played in his 129th career games, tied for the sixth-most in school history. They share the Santa Clara record for consecutive games played, having appeared in every game the last four seasons … Hauser has three assists to finish sixth on the school's single-season list (162) … Hauser scored in double figures 19 times this season, including 17 in his last 24 outings.

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