Gonzaga, Saint Mary's For WCC Title
March 6, 2005
By JANIE McCAULEY
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Adam Morrison had 25 points and a career-high eight assists and No. 12 Gonzaga reached the West Coast Conference tournament title game with a 90-74 rout of San Diego on Sunday for its 11th straight victory.
The Bulldogs will face Saint Mary's in Monday's title game at 9 p.m. Pacific time on ESPN. The Gaels, who lost both regular-season games to tournament host Santa Clara, won the game that mattered 69-64 in Sunday's late semifinal.
Gonzaga and Saint Mary's split their regular-season series, the Gaels winning 89-81 in Moraga, Calif., the opening weekend of WCC action, with the Bulldogs taking the re-match in Spokane 68-63. SMC snapped a 17-game losing streak to Gonzaga with its win.
J.P Batista added 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Zags (24-4), who relied on their impressive, balanced offense as they began their quest for a sixth WCC tournament title in seven years.
Gonzaga matched its best shooting half this season by making 65.6 percent from the field in the first half - and did it with second-leading scorer Ronny Turiaf on the bench in foul trouble for all but five minutes.
The Bulldogs will play Monday night at 9 p.m. Pacific time against the winner of Sunday's late game between second-seeded Saint Mary's and No. 3 Santa Clara.
Derek Raivio added 14 points and Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes had a career-high nine points with three 3-pointers and five assists for Gonzaga, which is headed for its seventh consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
Floyd North III had 16 points and Nick Lewis added 15 points and eight rebounds for the Toreros (16-13). Brandon Gay finished with 15 points on 6-for-12 shooting, a night after scoring a career-high 34 points in an 86-80 quarterfinal win over Pepperdine.
Turiaf picked up his second foul less than 2 minutes into the game. He came in averaging 16.6 points, but was held to two points on 1-for-7 shooting and only five rebounds. Morrison picked up the slack, going 10-for-17 and also grabbing five rebounds while leading the Zags' dominant performance on both ends of the floor.
Turiaf went down hard when fouled by Gay on a fast-break layin attempt with 7:33 left. He got up, but missed both free throws.
The Bulldogs received a bye into the semis by going 12-2 and winning the regular-season title, but showed no signs of rust after not playing in six days.
They have won 14 of the last 15 meetings against San Diego, including both this season by a combined 29 points. Gonzaga hasn't lost since a 73-70 defeat at San Francisco on Jan. 20.
This is the Zags' eighth straight season reaching 20 wins - and they were tested more often this season in the much-improved WCC, which reached its highest ranking of seventh in the conference RPI standings behind the six power leagues.
San Diego made an impressive turnaround this season, finishing 7-7 in WCC play after going 1-13 a year ago.
Gay scored 10 straight during one first-half spurt, but Gonzaga's up-tempo offense eventually wore down the overmatched Toreros.
San Diego also had to deal with the Bulldogs' huge rowdy, red-clad contingent that took up the majority of seats at the Leavey Center, where the Gonzaga women's team lost in the WCC title game earlier in the day to host Santa Clara.
The Zags made 12 of their first 20 shots but San Diego stayed close by going 4-for-9 from 3-point range.
Batista, the conference Newcomer of the Year, hit a 3 from the top of the arc 6:33 before halftime for a 32-23 Gonzaga lead, and the Zags ended the first half on a 13-2 run to take a 54-33 lead at the break.
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