Bulldogs Claim West Coast Conference Title Outright
Feb. 27, 2010
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
SPOKANE, Wash.(AP) - San Francisco may have a lousy record, but they Dons sure seem to give fits to the class of the West Coast Conference.
Elias Harris scored 17 points, Robert Sacre had 13 points and seven blocks, and No. 18 Gonzaga survived another upset bid by San Francisco, winning 75-69 on Saturday night to wrap up its 10th straight league title.
"They are a great team," Sacre said. "San Francisco should be in the (NCAA) tournament."
Tall praise, considering the Dons are just 12-17 and 7-7 in the West Coast Conference. San Francisco will have to win next week's league tournament in Las Vegas, which will probably run right through Gonzaga, to keep playing in the postseason.
San Francisco shocked the Zags 81-77 in overtime on Jan. 30, one of only eight conference losses in the last six seasons for the Bulldogs. Gonzaga has not been swept by a conference foe since San Diego did it in 1996-97.
San Francisco pulled within 72-69 on Moustapha Diarra's putback with 18.9 seconds left, and it looked like the Dons were ready to make some history. But they were forced to foul and did not score again, while Gonzaga put things away from the foul line.
"This is exactly the way I envisioned it," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "That's a very good basketball team. ... They match up with us really well."
Steven Gray finished with 15 points for Gonzaga (24-5, 12-2), which gave up 14 offensive rebounds to keep the Dons in the game. San Francisco shot 42 percent from the field, too, but missed eight of 22 free throws - all of them in the second half.
"That hurt us," San Francisco coach Rex Walters said. The game was close from the start, with Gonzaga leading by just two at halftime.
Harris scored seven straight points for a 49-40 lead early in the second half, but Angelo Caloiaro hit a 3-pointer and a lay-in to help the Dons close to 52-49.
Harris' 3-pointer gave Gonzaga a 63-53 lead with 8 minutes left, but San Francisco did not fold, and 3-pointers by Caloiaro and Dontae Bryant made it 68-63 with 3:33 remaining.
Two free throws by Dior Lowhorn and a basket by Diarra cut the lead to 70-67. Gray hit a pair of free throws with 1:41 left, and Lowhorn shot a long airball on the other end. Diarra put back Kwame Vaughn's missed shot to cut Gonzaga's lead to 72-69 with 18.9 seconds left.
San Francisco fouled on the inbounds play, and Sacre made one of two for a 73-69 lead. The Dons ran off more than 10 seconds before Vaughn was called for charging on a drive to give Gonzaga the ball with 5 seconds left.
"We do some things that can bother them a little bit, but they make plays," Walters said.
San Francisco opened the game by picking up right where they left off the first time they played the Zags, taking a 16-6 lead in the first seven minutes. But the Zags scored 14 straight points to take the lead.
The teams traded baskets until the Dons scored three unanswered buckets to tie the score at 31 with 2:14 left. The Zags led 35-33 at halftime.
Lowhorn led the Dons with 17 points, while Diarra had 15 and Vaughn 12.
Matt Bouldin had 11 points for the Zags, who shot 52 percent. Gonzaga concludes its regular season with a nonconference game against Cal State-Bakersfield on Tuesday.
Gonzaga's 10 straight WCC titles is tied for second-longest streak in NCAA history, after UCLA's 13 titles. The Zags are the top seed in next weekend's WCC tournament, with a bye into the semifinals.
Few said he was especially proud of this team because so many new players played a lot of minutes, and managed to produce. "This was a year we were vulnerable," he said. "They deserve a lot of credit."
Gonzaga closes the regular season with a non-conference game Tuesday at 6 p.m. against Cal State Bakersfield for Senior Night as Matt Bouldin, Will Foster and Chris Pontarolo-Maag will be honored in pre-game ceremonies.
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