SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -For most of the game, it appeared Gonzaga's Steven Gray might outscore the entire Santa Clara team.
Gray scored 26 points and the 18th-ranked Bulldogs crushed Santa Clara 88-51 on Thursday night to clinch at least a tie for a 10th consecutive West Coast Conference regular season title, one of the longest such runs in NCAA history.
When Gray scored his final points with 12:31 left, Gonzaga was leading 55-21. A late scoring surge against the Bulldogs' reserves made the final score closer than the game was.
``We've been waiting for Steven to bust out,' Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the junior guard, who topped 20 points for the first time in 10 games.
Gray was 10 of 12 from the field and had six rebounds.
``It's great to see him shoot the ball like he is capable of,' Few said.
Gonzaga (23-5, 11-2) dominated from the start, limiting Santa Clara to 34 percent shooting and holding them below 30 points for most of the game. The Zags shot 57 percent and dominated the boards 43-28. Bol Kong had 12 points and Robert Sacre 11 for the Zags.
Niyi Harrison and Marc Trasolini both had 13 points for Santa Clara (11-19, 3-10), which lost to Gonzaga for the ninth straight time. Robert Smith, who came in averaging more than 12 points per game, was scoreless and missed 10 shots from the field.
Gray made all four of his shots, including three 3-pointers, for 13 points as Gonzaga jumped to an 18-7 lead in the first 6 minutes.
Gray had 19 points in the first half to outscore the Santa Clara as Gonzaga led 41-15. Santa Clara made just 6 of 25 shots in the first half (24 percent) and its 15 points were a season low.
Gonzaga extended its lead to 47-19 with 15:40 left, as the Broncos missed six of their first seven shots in the second half. The lead reached 65-25 with just over 8 minutes left.
``We didn't give ourselves a chance to stay in the game,' Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating said. ``We couldn't find five guys consistently out there to play hard on every possession, especially on the defensive end.'
In the first game between these teams, Gonzaga came back from a 15-point deficit in the second half to win 71-64.
In winning at least a share of a 10th consecutive WCC title, Gonzaga moved into a tie with Connecticut (1951-60 Yankee Conference) and UNLV (1983-92 Big West) for the second-longest such streak in NCAA history. UCLA is first with 13 straight Pac-10 titles from 1967-79.
``It shows what an amazing group of guys we've had come through here,' said Few, who has been the head coach for the entire run.
Gonzaga must beat San Francisco on Saturday to win the title outright. The Dons beat them earlier this season.
``We don't want to share the title with anybody,' Sacre said. ``We have to get back at San Francisco.'
Gonzaga is 73-4 in the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved