Courtesy Gonzaga Athletics
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nigel Williams-Goss had 25 points and eight rebounds, and No. 4 Gonzaga secured a spot in the West Coast Conference title game for the 20th straight season with a 77-68 victory over Santa Clara on Monday night.
Przemek Karnowski added 19 points and seven boards for the Bulldogs (31-1), who dominated inside in winning their second straight since their loss to BYU.
Gonzaga will seek its fifth straight conference championship Tuesday night against the winner of the late game Monday between No. 19 Saint Mary’s and BYU.
Jared Brownridge scored 32 points for Santa Clara (17-16), which has dropped 15 in a row to Gonzaga.
The Broncos, who lost to Gonzaga by 31 and 35 points during the regular season, played their second straight game without second-leading scorer K.J. Feagin, who was sidelined with an injury. Then two of their starters, Emmanuel Ndumanya and Nate Kratch, each had four fouls before the second half was 5 minutes old.
But they stayed in the game behind the dynamic Brownridge, who hit 12 of 25 shots. Santa Clara cut a 15-point deficit to 56-51 on Kratch’s bucket with 8:59 left.
Gonzaga answered with Karnowski’s half-hook and two free throws and a layup from Williams-Goss during an 8-2 run.
When the Broncos again rallied to 68-63, Williams-Goss drained his only 3-pointer with 1:43 left. Las Vegas native Zach Collins’ 3 with 47 seconds left made it 74-65.
The Zags shot 56 percent from the field and had 46 points in the paint.
Santa Clara: Herb Sendek inherited an 11-21 team and got the Broncos into the WCC semifinals for the first time in six years. The former North Carolina State and Arizona State coach overcame seven players missing time with injuries and posted a winning record in his first season.
Gonzaga: The Zags became the nation’s first 31-win team and can likely cement its status as a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament with a victory in the final Tuesday.
Santa Clara: Sendek will need to replace seniors Brownridge and Kratch next season. Each played in all 129 games the past four years.
Gonzaga: The Zags will attempt to extend their conference tournament winning streak to 14 in Tuesday’s final.