No. 11 Gonzaga Captures WCC Championship
March 8, 2005
By JANIE McCAULEY
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - Adam Morrison scored 30 points and keyed a big second-half run to lead No. 11 Gonzaga to its sixth West Coast Conference tournament title in seven seasons, 80-67 over Saint Mary's on Monday night.
Ronny Turiaf added 18 points and 14 rebounds as the Zags (25-4) earned a seventh straight NCAA tournament bid with their 12th straight victory. Gonzaga beat the second-seeded Gaels in the title game for the second straight season.
Daniel Kickert scored 27 points with a career-high seven 3-pointers, and Paul Marigney had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Saint Mary's (25-8), which still has a strong chance to earn the school's first NCAA tournament bid since winning its only WCC tournament title in 1997 and losing in the NCAA first round to Wake Forest.
Morrison, the tournament MVP, scored the Zags' first seven points after halftime, including a three-point play that started a 15-3 run. He threw his arm into the air to celebrate in the final minute and called for Gonzaga's large fan contingent to rise to its feet.
Turiaf, who had four second-half blocks, responded with a big night after a poor performance in Gonzaga's 90-74 semifinal win over San Diego on Sunday.
Derek Raivio added 16 points to help Gonzaga snap the Gaels' five-game winning streak.
Of all the talented Gonzaga teams during the program's recent run, some say this could potentially be the best one yet.
After Kickert's 3 with 16:20 left pulled the Gaels to 41-40, Gonzaga scored 10 straight points and held the Gaels to one field goal in 10 minutes. Marigney scored five straight to pull Saint Mary's to 53-47 with 8:01 to go, but the Gaels couldn't get closer.
The Bulldogs, who played in the tournament championship game for the eighth straight year, haven't lost since a 73-70 defeat at San Francisco on Jan. 20.
Gonzaga's red-clad fans chanted "This is our house!" before the game, a reminder that the Zags have won eight straight in the Leavey Center, Santa Clara's home arena.
Most of the sellout crowd was in red actually, one of the colors for both teams.
Kickert made five first-half 3-pointers. Kickert is from Australia, and a fan dressed in an Australian flag T-shirt and carrying the country's flag ran wildly along the upper concourse during a second-half timeout before security stopped him.
E.J. Rowland had six of his nine assists in the first half, but Saint Mary's started the second half 2-for-13, missed four crucial free throws and was sloppy with the ball. The Gaels committed three shot-clock violations and a halfcourt violation.
The teams split their two regular-season meetings, both winning at home. Saint Mary's made a school-record 16 3-pointers to beat the Zags 89-81 on Jan. 8.
Saint Mary's has never beaten Gonzaga in the conference tournament (0-8). The Gaels blew a 12-point halftime lead in Spokane on Feb. 3, shooting 7-for-29 after the break in a 68-63 loss.
The Gaels were 10-for-18 to start Monday's game and used a 13-4 spurt to build a 26-16 lead, but then missed 12 of their next 15 shots. Morrison scored six straight to keep Gonzaga close, then the Zags responded with a 10-3 run and pulled within 35-34 at halftime.
The WCC has sent two teams to the tournament only five times in the last 15 years, but the Gaels are hoping their 25 wins will be the difference for the selection committee next Sunday.
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