MORAGA, Calif. (AP) -- Gonzaga faced the best St. Mary's had to offer. That's been the case most of the year for the seventh-ranked Bulldogs.
Dan Dickau scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half, and Gonzaga, with its highest ranking ever, defeated St. Mary's 74-55 Saturday night to clinch at least a share of its fourth West Coast Conference title in five years.Gonzaga will be the No. 2 seed, however, when the WCC tournament begins next Saturday in San Diego after losing a coin flip with co-champion Pepperdine. "When you're seventh in the country, it juices up the other
team and that's good for us," said Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who led
the Bulldogs to the Sweet 16 last year, where they lost to Michigan
State. "We've played in sellout gyms wherever we go in this
league."Ronny Turiaf recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds as the Bulldogs (26-3, 13-1) won their 11th straight game and 23rd of 24. Cory Violette had 14 points and Zach Gourde added 11.Ethnie Stubbs scored 13 points to lead St. Mary's (8-19, 3-11), which has lost its last 10 meetings with the Bulldogs. Ross Benson added 11.Gonzaga, which has won at least 20 games in eight of the past nine years, will finish the season with its fewest losses ever as a Division I member. The Bulldogs were 19-6 in 1967."We accomplished our goal," Few said. "Whenever you get a double-digit win in this league, you've got to be happy."
Dickau, the conference's leading scorer, was held without a
point until making a pair of free throws with 2:18 remaining in the
first half. He missed six of his first seven shots."I tried to be more aggressive in the second half and that got me better looks," Dickau said. "This is another case of a team playing me physical."The inside play of Gourde, Violette and Turiaf, all 6-foot-8 or taller, proved too much for the Gaels. The trio combined to make 14 of 22 shots and grab 19 rebounds, nearly matching St. Mary's team total of 21."Gonzaga has the biggest guys under the basket in the league," said Gaels forward Chase Poole, who finished with 10 points.Blake Stepp hit a 3-pointer with 17:47 remaining to put the
Bulldogs up 47-35. The Gaels managed to close within eight, but
Gonzaga began to pull away in the final minutes."The atmosphere in the gym was awesome," said St. Mary's coach Randy Bennett about their largest crowd of the year at 3,411. "They beat us on the boards and wore us down physically. This is Gonzaga's best team."Samuel Saint-Jean hit a 3-pointer with 43 seconds left in the first half to pull St. Mary's within 36-33, but the Bulldogs scored the final six points to take a 42-33 halftime advantage.Anthony Reason's one-handed spike jam -- off a missed basket -- at
the buzzer put the exclamation point on Gonzaga's rally.The Gaels proved worthy opponents early, and held the lead for most of the first 15 minutes. Gonzaga, which turned the ball over seven times in the first nine minutes, finally took the lead for good on Turiaf's basket with 5:12 left in the half.