No. 4 Gonzaga Upends USD, 97-78
Feb 27, 2004
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
SPOKANE, Wash. - Blake Stepp was scoreless in the first half Thursday night and seemed to be still shaking off effects of a concussion two games ago.
Then he made eight 3-pointers in the second half, breaking Gonzaga's career record, and the fourth-ranked Bulldogs beat San Diego 97-78.
Stepp finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists as Gonzaga won its 17th consecutive game, extending a team record. He has 281 career 3-pointers, one more than Richie Frahm made before graduating in 2000.
"He can miss five, six, seven in a row and still be confident enough to know the next one is going in," coach Mark Few said of Stepp, who finished 8-of-17 from 3-point range after missing all five of his first-half attempts.
"When he feels it, he feels it," said Cory Violette, who added 20 points and eight rebounds for Gonzaga (24-2, 13-0 West Coast Conference).
The Bulldogs' winning streak is third-longest in the country behind Stanford and Saint Joseph's, the only unbeaten teams remaining in Division I and the only teams to beat Gonzaga this year.
San Diego (4-24, 1-12) has lost five straight and 16 of 17. But the Toreros kept it close in the first half before wilting under Stepp's 3-point barrage.
"Blake Stepp had a phenomenal second half," San Diego coach Brad Holland said. "Good players put a bad half behind them."
But Holland was delighted his team stayed with the Bulldogs.
"We had five guys in double figures and shot 50 percent and we rebounded with one of the best rebounding teams in the nation," Holland said.
Gonzaga plays Santa Clara on Saturday in its bid to become the first WCC team to go undefeated in the league since Pepperdine in 1992. Gonzaga has never had a perfect league record.
"That was a big goal of ours at the beginning of the season," Violette said.
With leading scorer Brice Vounang and top guard Mike McGrain out with injuries, San Diego had four walk-ons on the roster and only five scholarship players. Brandon Gay led the Toreros with 21 points.
Brett Melton added 16 points, Brad Lechtenberg 14 and Nick Lewis 13 for the Toreros, who shot 50 percent and were outrebounded 32-29.
Gonzaga led 40-29 at halftime. Stepp then made five 3-pointers in the first 8 minutes of the second half to give the Bulldogs a 69-50 lead.
Stepp came into the game needing eight 3-pointers to break Frahm's team record. He got his sixth and seven on consecutive shots. Then his 3-pointer from the left corner with 6:08 left broke Frahm's record and was a career high for Stepp.
Dan Dickau twice got nine in a game for the school record. Frahm, who graduated in 2000, now plays for the Seattle SuperSonics.
Ten early points by Gay, capped by consecutive 3-pointers, helped San Diego to a 23-18 lead with 10 minutes left in the first half.
But Gonzaga replied with an 11-0 run - five points from Adam Morrison - for a 29-23 lead.
After Lechtenberg hit a 3-pointer, Gonzaga scored the next 11 points, with Violette's basket giving them a 40-26 lead. The Bulldogs, second in the nation in shooting percentage, shot 58 percent in the first half and 56 percent for the game.
Stanford was the last team to beat Gonzaga, on Dec. 20.
Gonzaga is 24-0 at home when ranked, and has not lost at home this season.
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