No. 5 Gonzaga Clinches WCC Title
Feb. 20, 2006
MALIBU, Calif. (AP) -- With Kobe Bryant, Reggie Miller and a host of NBA scouts on hand to watch "The Adam Morrison Show," Gonzaga put on an ensemble presentation instead.
The nation's leading scorer had a relatively quiet 26 points, J.P. Batista had 16 points and 13 rebounds and Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes added a career-high 17 points in a balanced effort from the fifth-ranked Bulldogs, who won their 14th straight game with an 81-71 victory over Pepperdine on Monday night.
"He's not going to hit eight of 10 3s every night," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said, referring to Morrison's career-high 44-point performance at Loyola Marymount on Saturday. "We fought through it."
Batista added: "It's not all about Morrison. We don't watch him, we've all got to do our jobs."
Gonzaga (23-3, 12-0) clinched its sixth straight West Coast Conference regular season title when Loyola Marymount lost to Portland earlier Monday. The Bulldogs clinched a share of the title on Saturday when they beat Loyola Marymount.
The 14-game winning streak matches No. 6 George Washington for the longest in the nation, and Gonzaga has won 21 consecutive conference games.
Tashaan Forehan-Kelly had 25 points for Pepperdine (7-17, 3-9), which has lost five straight overall and 10 in a row to Gonzaga.
Morrison came into the game averaging 29.4 points, a half-point ahead of Duke's J.J. Redick. Morrison missed his first five shots on Monday, hit the next five in a row, then missed five more before making his last two.
He finished 7-for-17 from the field and 11-for-17 from the free throw line.
Morrison said he saw the retired Miller, one of the NBA's best long-range shooters, before the game, but didn't notice Bryant until the Los Angeles Lakers star and his family left in the final minute.
"I didn't realize he was there," Morrison said. "It was pretty neat to see them there, to have guys like that watching us play."
Altidor-Cespedes was 5-of-6 from the field, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range.
"Pierre Marie did a great job coming in and making shots," Batista said. "That kind of helped out, because Adam had a cold start."
Derek Raivio added 12 points for the Bulldogs, who shot 43.1 percent (22-for-51) from the field.
Batista, who averages 19.5 points per game, was coming off a season-low six points.
Gonzaga opened a double-digit lead to start the second half, but Pepperdine closed to 52-48 on a layup by Willie Galick with 11:56 to play.
Batista then made a three-point play to start an 8-0 run and the Bulldogs pulled away, leading by as many as 14 points down the stretch.
The Bulldogs earned the No. 1 seed and a bye straight to the semifinals of the WCC tournament that begins on their court on March 3.
Morrison struggled with his shooting in the first half and had a nosebleed that required a wad of gauze.
He made his first field goal with 3:11 to play in the half and followed with a 3-pointer on the next possession to give Gonzaga a 35-28 lead.
Morrison then hit a long jumper with two defenders in his face in the final seconds of the half to give Gonzaga a 39-32 lead.
"We did as good a job on him as you can, and he ends up with 26," Pepperdine coach Paul Westphal said. "It's hard to completely not have him be a factor in the game."
Pepperdine opened the game with a 17-8 run that featured eight points from Forehan-Kelly and four from Russell Hicks. The nine-point lead would be the Waves' biggest.
Gonzaga answered with a 19-4 run, capped by a three-point play from Batista that gave the Bulldogs a 27-21 lead with 5:21 left in the half.
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