No. 4 Gonzaga Sneaks Into WCC Finals
March 7, 2004
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Ronny Turiaf scored four of his 10 points in the final 41 seconds of the game as fourth-ranked Gonzaga University battled back from 10 points down in the final 7:44 to defeat host Santa Clara University 63-62 in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference men's basketball tournament Sunday night at the Leavey Center.
Gonzaga (26-2) will vie for its fifth WCC Tournament title in six years and a 20th straight win heading into the NCAA Tournament in Monday's 9 p.m. championship game against Saint Mary's College to be televised on ESPN. Saint Mary's advanced to the title game with a 79-74 win over Pepperdine University in Sunday's other semifinal.
Turiaf's tip of a rebound melee off his own miss gave Gonzaga a 61-60 lead with 41 ticks left. Travis Niesen put the Broncos (16-16) back up by one with his jumper with 25 seconds to play. Following a Gonzaga timeout, Turiaf got the ball down low in the paint, missed a short jumper and then got his rebound and put it back in for a 63-62 Gonzaga advantage with five seconds to go.
The Broncos came down and were unable to penetrate inside, Kyle Bailey pulling up for a 3-pointer from the left wing and Turiaf grabbed the rebound as the horn sounded.
"We faced an inspired Santa Clara team tonight that was playing at home for a chance to try and get to the NCAA Tournament. They made some tough shots. But the character in this room (Gonzaga locker room) stayed with it."
Few said the Bulldogs definitely didn't come with their "A" game but "Santa Clara took it to us and we had to dig one out. We haven't had one of these in awhile."
Cory Violette finished with 22 points, including a big 3-point play that kept alive a 9-0 Gonzaga run late in the game as he grabbed a short Blake Stepp 3-pointer for the layin and completed the 3-point play by converting the free throw to cut the SCU lead to 58-56 with 2:43 to go. Violette then grabbed the rebound on a missed Doron Perkins 3-point attempt, the Bulldogs took a timeout and Stepp drilled a long three from the top of the key on the ensuing inbounds play to give Gonzaga its first lead of the night at 59-58.
Perkins regained the lead for SCU when he made two free throws with 57 seconds to go, setting the stage for the wild last minute of play.
Santa Clara came out sizzling in the second half, hitting 5-of-6 from the field - including 4-of-5 from long range - in the first five minutes to push the lead back to 10 at 40-30 and then 43-33. Bailey hit back-to-back treys sandwiched around 3-pointers by Sean Denison and Perkins as SCU pushed the lead to 43-33. Erroll Knight had a tipin and Violette a 6-foot jumper in the paint to help quell the SCU uprising.
The Broncos raced to a 19-8 lead in the first half, built on an 8-0 run that saw Linden Tibbets muscle his way for a layin and a 3-point play, Perkins hit a jumper and then Perkins again with an acrobatic layin and a foul to complete the 3-point play and the spurt. The Bulldogs went on a 9-3 run to close the gap to 22-17 at the 5:53 mark. Violette began the run with a layin, then hit a pair of free throws. Stepp's layin made it 19-14 before SCU's J.R. Patrick drilled a 3-pointer from the left elbow. Derek Raivio got into the scoring with a trey to end the run.
SCU pushed the lead back to 11 at 29-18 before the Bulldogs scored the final eight points of the half to go to the locker room down 29-26. Sean Mallon converted two free throw, Adam Morrison hit a 17-footer from the left corner, Violette made two more throws and Morrison made a running shot down the right side of the lane.
Gonzaga was 9-of-26 from the field in the first half for 34.6 percent while SCU was 11-of-29 for 36.7 percent. Gonzaga went just 1-of-8 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes, SCU 3-of-9.
The 26 points were the fewest scored by the Bulldogs in the first half this year, 27 against Stanford University in the Pete Newell Challenge the previous low for the only two times this season the Bulldog have failed to reach the 30-point mark by halftime. It was just the fifth time this season the Bulldogs trailed at the half, including 38-36 to SCU in the regular-season meeting at the Leavey Center.
The Bulldogs shot just 37.4 percent from the field for the game, SCU 38.3. SCU won the battle of the boards 40-39 despite double doubles from Gonzaga's Turiaf (10 points, 12 rebounds) and Violette, 10 rebounds to go with his 22 points for this 28th career double double.
Turiaf was just 3-for-13 from the field, and Few said frustration became a big factor.
"Ronny was frustrated. It was physical inside and I felt he was fouled on almost every shot. To his credit he stayed with it and made some big plays down the stretch," Few said.
Gonzaga played without reserve center Richard Fox who hyper-extended his injured right knee in practice on Friday. Fox had meniscus surgery in early January and just returned to action in mid-February.
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