Stockton Lay-in Advances Bulldogs To WCC Semifinals Again

LAS VEGAS (AP) - David Stockton sank the game-winning layup with 1.4 seconds left Saturday night to lift top-seeded Gonzaga past No. 9 seed Santa Clara in the West Coast Conference tournament quarterfinals 77-75.

The biggest basket of Stockton’s career also gave head coach Mark Few his 400th career victory in his 15 seasons at the helm, ranking him as the fifth fastest head coach in NCAA Division I history to reach the 400-win plateau in 499 games.

Legendary Kentucky head coach Adolph Rupp heads the list with 477 games in his 20th season in 1950. Clair Bee (Rider and LIU Brooklyn) is second at 483 games in his 21st season in 1951. Jerry Tarkanian reached it in 492 games at Long Beach State and UNLV in his 17th season in 1985 and Roy Williams did it in 496 games in his 15th season at Kansas in 2003.

It was the second time in three meetings this season the Bulldogs (26-5) defeated the Broncos in the waning seconds. Sam Dower hit a 3-pointer with 1.9 ticks left in a 54-52 win at Santa Clara (14-19) in late January.

Few knew the game was going to be a tough one.

“It was truly a great win for us. We had to dig as deep as we’ve had to dig this year. These guys had to make play after play after winning play down the stretch,” he said. “The other night when I watched Santa Clara play (in a play-in win Thursday over Pacific to advance), I knew we were going to have our hands full. They were a hot team, shooting the ball really well. In tournaments like this those are the kind of teams you fear. They are coming in with nothing to lose and they did a great job. The really put it on us there for awhile.”

The Bulldogs, who trailed 37-31at halftime, took their first lead since 23-21 when Stockton drove the lane as the shot clock was at four and got a layin with 4:31 to play to give the Bulldogs a 64-63 lead. But Brandon Clark responded with a layin as SCU regained the lead just 16 seconds later.

Dower was fouled with 3:24 remaining and sank both free throws as he went 14-for-14 from the line in the second half and 15-for-15 in the game, the later equaling a Gonzaga single-game record for free throw percentage with a minimum of 10 free throws attempted. Geoff Goss in 1993 and Frank Burgess in 1961 also went 15-for-15 from the stripe. He also set a WCC Tournament mark with his free throw accuracy.

John McArthur gave the Broncos their last lead at 67-66 with 3:05 to play when he hit a jumper from the left elbow.

Dower took a nifty pass from Stockton for a layin with 2:50 remaining, then hit four straight free throws for a 72-68 Gonzaga lead with 1:32 remaining.

Clark and Gonzaga’s Kyle Dranginis exchanged layins but Dranginis missed the free throw for the 3-point play with 52 seconds to play. Evan Roquemore made the back end of two free throws with 45 seconds remaining to cut Gonzaga’s lead to 74-70, then Dranginis missed the back end of a two-shot free throw.

Roquemore muscled for a layin and was fouled by Stockton and completed the 3-point effort to cut Gonzaga’s lead to 75-73 with 32 seconds showing. Gary Bell Jr. was called for traveling on the ensuing inbounds and the Broncos had hope, working the game clock down to 9.1 seconds when Jared Brownridge, who burned the Bulldogs for 18 of his game-high 24 points in the first half, banked in a shot from the free throw line left extended.

But the Bulldogs had plenty of time. Stockton took the inbounds pass and went coast-to-coast for the decisive layin.

“I was just trying to run some time so they didn’t get a chance on a fast break the other way. Then attack. If they help then I have shooters but they locked onto shooters and that’s where the opportunity arose,” Stockton said.

Few said the Bulldogs did a better job of contesting Brownridge in the second half.

“He hit a lot of tough shots in the first half. There were one or two where we lost him. The other ones he was closely guarded and he has a real knack for making those,” Few said. “We challenged the guys in the second half to get up and contest a little bit better and we did. That made their shots a little tougher, but you’re still winching when he does. He has a knack of making those shots, he’s been doing it all year. He’s a heck of a freshman in this league.”

Dower finished the night with 23. Przemek Karnowski contributed 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Gary Bell Jr. had 13 points for the Bulldogs, who shot 53 percent from the field.

Gonzaga will face Saint Mary’s in the 6 p.m. semifinal Monday at the Orleans Arena in a game to be televised on ESPN.

The Bulldogs advanced to their 22nd straight semifinal appearance, while Saint Mary’s downed Pepperdine 80-69 Saturday to advance.

The other half of the bracket will have BYU, an 85-74 victor over Loyola Marymount, facing San Francisco, which disposed of San Diego 69-60 in Saturday’s other quarterfinals. The BYU-USF game will be televised on ESPN2 following the Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s matchup.

The two winners will meet in Tuesday's 6 p.m. championship game.

Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s will be meeting for the sixth straight time in the tourney after having met in the title game each of the five previous seasons the tournament has been played in Las Vegas. Gonzaga holds a 3-2 edge in those meetings.

All Gonzaga men’s games can also be heard on the IMG Gonzaga Radio Network, including flagship station 1510 KGA CBS Radio in Spokane.

Gonzaga’s women will also meet Saint Mary’s in semifinal action Monday at noon, with BYU and Pacific meeting in the other women’s semifinal. The women’s semifinals will be televised on BYUtv with the Gonzaga game also aired on The Key 1050 AM. The two winners will meet in Tuesday’s 1 p.m. title game.

The men’s and women’s champions receive the WCC’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.



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