Monday , Mar , 08 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Zags use late surge to bust Broncos

Santa Clara, CA (Sports Network) – Ronny Turiaf put back his own miss with 5.1
seconds remaining, as No. 4 Gonzaga rallied to post a 63-62 win over host
Santa Clara in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament.

Top-seeded Gonzaga will face second-seeded Saint Mary’s in the conference
title game Monday, with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.

Cory Violette led the Bulldogs (26-2) with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Blake
Stepp, the WCC Player of the Year, finished with just 11 points on 3-of-10
shooting, but Gonzaga still managed to rally from an 11-point second half
deficit to win its 19th consecutive game.

“We were playing on their home floor and they played very inspired. I thought
they had a lot of energy and they made a lot of tough shots,” explained
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few. “To weather all that, just to find a way to win,
that’s a good sign for our team.”

Doron Perkins finished with 26 points and eight rebounds for Santa Clara
(16-16), which was unable to hold on for the victory despite the benefit of
the home crowd. The Broncos, who made it to the semifinals with a win over the
University of San Francisco on Saturday night, lost for the third time this
season to Gonzaga.

After Stepp’s three-point basket with 1:42 remaining gave the Bulldogs their
first lead of the contest at 59-58, Perkins re-staked the Broncos to the lead
with a pair of free throws.

Turiaf then got credit for a tip-in and Travis Niesen answered for Santa Clara
with a tough shot in the lane, giving the Broncos a 62-61 advantage with 21
seconds left.

The Bulldogs then called timeout and decided to let Turiaf do his work down
low. His first shot hit off the back rim, but he grabbed the rebound and put
back the miss with just seconds remaining. Santa Clara raced down to the other
end of the court and Kyle Bailey’s three-point attempt caromed harmlessly off
the rim to preserve the Gonzaga victory.

Gonzaga previously defeated the Broncos 79-63 at SCU on Jan. 31, then toppled
them 80-64 last Saturday in its home finale.

Turiaf finished with 10 points — eight down the stretch — and 12 rebounds,
as the Bulldogs advanced to their seventh straight WCC Tournament championship
game.

Gonzaga will attempt to capture its fifth conference tournament title in six
years. The Bulldogs dropped last year’s title game at the University of San
Diego, 72-63, to snap a streak of four straight crowns.

Gonzaga trailed 58-50 with 4 1/2 minutes to play. The Bulldogs then put their
comeback in the hands of their big men, continually pounding the ball down
low to spark a 9-0 run. Turiaf ignited the run with a pair of free throws and
Violette’s three-point play later brought Gonzaga within a basket at 58-56.
Stepp then nailed a long-range three-pointer with just under two minutes left
to give Gonzaga its first lead of the game.

The Broncos opened the second half hitting shots from everywhere on the
floor. They made their first four shot attempts, including back-to-back three-
pointers by Bailey, to open a 40-30 advantage just 2:36 into the final half.

Gonzaga furiously tried to battle back into the contest over the next 12
minutes of play, but Santa Clara had an answer for everything the Bulldogs
threw at them. Perkins and the torrid shooting from the Broncos kept the host
school in front.

Santa Clara jumped out of the gates quickly with the first six points of the
contest. Perkins’ traditional three-point play 6:41 into the game allowed the
Broncos to stretch their lead to 19-8.

Gonzaga, though, used an 8-0 run over the final 3:42 of the first half to pull
within three at the break. With Santa Clara in the midst of a cold spell —
missing its final six shots of the half — the Bulldogs were able to close the
gap to 29-26 after Adam Morrison’s short jumper accounted for the final basket
of the opening 20 minutes of play.

GONZAGA SANTACLARA