WCC Tournament Recap

by Matthew Stevens | March 5th, 2007

#1 Gonzaga 77, #2 Santa Clara 68

For the ninth consecutive year, the Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-10, 11-3) are dancing into the NCAA Tournament after defeating Santa Clara 77-68 in the West Coast Conference Tournament final Monday night.

Gonzaga, the WCC regular season champion, has persevered through early-season injuries and an indefinite suspension of star forward Josh Heyvelt after he was arrested on drug charges to earn the automatic bid.

Two weeks ago, analysts across the country were questioning if the Committee would put the Zags in the field as an at-large team, so head coach Mark Few’s squad eliminated all doubt by winning the league tournament for the fourth consecutive season.

The Bulldogs were led by guard Derek Raivio’s game-high 28 points as the senior, the WCC’s Most Valuable Player, made eight of 12 from the field and a perfect 10 of 10 from the charity stripe. Raivio’s class finished their college careers with a perfect record in the league tournament.

Bracketography.com has the Bulldogs projected as an 11-seed in its latest updated bracket.

Santa Clara (21-10, 10-4) was trying to keep the coaching career of head coach Dick Davey alive as the 64-year-old is being forced to resign at the end of the season by university administration. Davey has roamed the WCC sidelines for 31 seasons. Monday night may have been Davey’s final appearance at the helm, but the Broncos still have a decent chance at receiving a bid to the National Invitational Tournament.

Santa Clara’s hot shooting early slowly dissipated, which allowed Gonzaga to crawl back into the contest. The Zags eventually took a 40-35 halftime lead.

Santa Clara had broken Gonzaga’s nation-long 50-game home winning streak at K2 earlier this season, but the Bulldogs played much more consistent perimeter defense to secure tonight’s win. The Broncos’ guard play was disappointing at the worst time. The trio of perimeter players for Santa Clara combined for only 21 points while shooting seven-of-27 from the field and five of 15 from beyond the arc.

Gonzaga’s second-leading scorer, Jeremy Pargo, was held to only nine points but was playing despite suffering a deep thigh bruise early in the league tournament. While it was unclear whether the Chicago native would even suit up for Monday night’s game, the sophomore will now have at least nine days to rest his injury prior to Gonzaga’s NCAA Tournament opener.

–Matthew Stevens

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