March 7, 2010 - 8:54 pm
Top-seeded Gonzaga got a brief scare from No. 5 Loyola Marymount in the second half, but the Bulldogs used a big run to put the game away for good in the closing minutes.
The Lions got as close as six points, but the Bulldogs broke loose for an 11-2 run that helped secure a 77-62 victory in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on Sunday night.
After suffering what looked like an arm injury early in the game, Steven Gray had 18 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Bulldogs..
He was an absolute warrior tonight,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said of Gray. “ It’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen one of our players give. We thought he had a broken elbow and he wanted to go right back in.”
Elias Harris added 16 points and Mat Bouldin scored 12.
The Gonzaga bench outscored Loyola Marymount’s 15-2 in the game.
Gonzaga jumped right out to a quick lead, scoring eight before the Lions got on the board. Loyola Marymount settled down and played fairly well the rest of the way, but the Bulldogs proved to be too much.
“We had six turnovers in the first seven or eight minutes and then finished with just 12 in the game, so I think we did a pretty good job after they hit us in the mouth a little bit.”
Drew Viney had 15 points and eight rebounds to lead the Lions.
Loyola looking to continue season
Loyola Marymount finished the season with 18 wins after winning two games here in the WCC tournament and Drew Viney and Jarred DuBois expressed a desire to continue playing if the Lions are invited to one of the smaller postseason.
Head coach Max Good drove the point home by saying he doesn’t care where the team goes, as long as they are allowed to keep playing and more importantly, practicing together for a few weeks.
“We’ll go to the dust bowl if we’re invited,” he said.
Loyola Marymount doesn’t have a senior on the roster, so the experience could prove to be incredibly valuable.
Madness is universal
Elias Harris grew up in Germany, but he says he is very familiar with the importance of March in college basketball.
The freshman said he is fully aware of the hold the college game takes on America and was fired up to get a taste of it here at the WCC tournament.
“I had heard a lot about it,” he said. “Of course, I was following NCAA basketball and watching it. It was exciting tonight to play here. Great atmosphere.”
This will be the 13th consecutive WCC tournament championship game for Gonzaga, which includes all 11 seasons Mark Few has been the head coach.
Senior Matt Bouldin, who has obviously been in the title game in each of his four seasons, says the job isn’t finished until the tournament title is won.
“Going into the tournament, we want to be playing our best basketball, so winning it is everything,” he said.
To Air is Human
An airball free throw is one of the more embarrassing things that can happen to a player in a basketball game.
The action is stopped and everyone is focused on you as you stand by yourself just 15 feet away from the basket.
Will Foster now knows the feeling, as his first attempt of the day fell short of hitting the rim and drew quite a reaction from the crowd.
It gets worse.
His second attempt just seconds later also hit nothing.
It is rare to see an airballed free throw in any college basketball game, much less back-to-back such disasters.
Somehow, it got weirder for the Bulldogs.
Steven Gray was fouled a few possessions later and, unbelievably, he also airballed his first free throw.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, conference championships are not decided by free-throw contests.
Though, something tells you if they were, Mark Few would recruit the best free-throw shooters in the country.
The Bulldogs fans are loving life at the West Coast Conference tournament.
They appear to have bought about 80 percent of the tickets to the sold out event and have populated all areas of the Orleans.
You couldn’t walk three feet in the casino and restaurant areas of the property today without bumping into a Gonzaga shirt or jersey.
Many of the fans from Spokane were also out in full force tailgating in the parking lot before the game.
They will only get crazier tomorrow.
Both the Gonzaga men and women are in the championship games of their respective tournaments.
The women, by far the league’s best team in the regular sesaon, will play Pepperdine. The Bulldogs beat Santa Clara by 40 points today in the semifinals. The Waves pulled a minor upset over Saint Mary’s, 62-56.
The men’s team will play the winner of tonight’s second semifinal between second-seeded Saint Mary’s and No. 3 Portland.
Both teams have been ranked at some point in the season, while Gonzaga is currently comfortably in the polls at No. 14 in the coach’s poll and No. 18 in the AP.