Gonzaga Wraps Up Top WCC Tournament Seed
Feb. 27, 2003
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Gonzaga University wrapped up the top seed into the West Coast Conference Tournament and no worse than a share of the regular-season title with a 71-66 victory at Santa Clara University Thursday night.
The Bulldogs (21-7, 11-2), who beat the Broncos for the fifth straight time and for the 10th time in the last 12 meetings, head to the University of San Diego with a one-game lead over the Toreros (16-10, 10-3), a Thursday winner at home against the University of Portland. However, the Bulldogs hold all tiebreakers over USD should the teams tie for the crown.
The Bulldogs and USD are assured berths in the semifinals of the WCC Tournament on Sunday, March 9, at the Jenny Craig Pavilion on the USD Campus. The Bulldogs will play the 9 p.m. semifinal to be televised on ESPN. The men's tourney opens Friday with No. 5 meeting No. 8 and No. 6 playing No. 7.
With the scored knotted at 62 with 3:40 to play following a pair of Ronny Turiaf free throws, The Bulldogs got a big 3-pointer from Stepp to break the 62 all tie. He hesitated at the right top of the circle from about 26 feet, looked for an entry pass and then shot over a Bronco defender. Following a SCU basket from Bakari Altheimer who had a career-high 21 points to lead all scorers, Stepp hit from the right side for another trey and a 68-64 advantage with 51 ticks left.
The final three Bulldog points came from the free throw line, where Tony Skinner, Stepp and Cory Violette each hit the front ends of one-and-one situations as SCU was able to counter with just a pair of Altheimer free throws in the final 1:10.
The complexion of the game could have changed dramatically when Stepp and the Broncos Ethan Rohde were called for a double foul at the 15:55 mark of the second half, the fourth foul on Stepp who took to the bench and didn't return until 6:18 remained. The Bulldogs, leading 41-39 at the time of Stepp's departure, got some solid minutes from Josh Reisman and still led 58-57 when Stepp returned. Reisman scored five points in that 9:37 stretch, including a trey from the left top of the circle that gave the Bulldogs a 54-50 lead.
Reisman, who finished with eight points in his 16 minutes, fouled out with 6:01 to go as he was called for an offensive foul and then attempted a steal for fouls four and five within four seconds.
Stepp led the Bulldogs with 16 points despite playing just 27 minutes, only the third time season he's played less than 30 minutes, one of those a 23-minute stint in an 87-49 blowout at Portland State University. The other was 27 minutes against the University of Utah at the Maui Invitational. Turiaf finished with 12 points, including 6-of-7 from the line, and Zach Gourde, starting in place of Cory Violette for the second straight game (the other was Senior Night last Saturday in the home finale) had 10 points, eight coming in the first half.
Neither team could generate much in a sloppily played opening 20 minutes. Gonzaga was guilty of nine turnovers that lead to 12 Broncos points, while SCU had six miscues.
Gonzaga was ready to take control with a 7-0 spurt midway through the half that gave the visitors a 20-14 lead with 10:59 remaining. But after the teams traded baskets, SCU went on a 13-4 run for a 29-26 lead with 1:15 remaining in the half. Gonzaga had just four field goals the final 9:31 of the half.
The Bulldogs shot 40.9 percent for the half (9-for-22) while the Broncos connected on 41.9 (13-of-31). Both teams struggled from the free throw line in the half, Gonzaga 8-of-12 while the Broncos were just 1-of-6. Gonzaga heated up in the second half to go 14-for-26 from the field for 53.8 percent to finish the game at 47.9 percent. SCU hit 11-of-27 second-half shots for 40.7 percent and ended the night at 41.4 percent.
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