The ball was loose on the floor near the foul line, and Jeremy Pargo went after it, even though he had a 6-foot-11-inch, 275-pound opponent to contend with.
But the 6-2 Gonzaga guard was far too quick for Santa Clara’s John Bryant. In the blink of an eye, Pargo not only had beaten Bryant to the ball, he had made his way to the left corner and launched a 3-pointer that caught nothing but net.
It was part of a 17-2 run over the final five minutes of the first half, and it epitomized Gonzaga’s 94-59 win in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament.
Gonzaga (25-5) will face Saint Mary’s (25-5) for the WCC title and the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at 6 p.m. today at the Orleans Arena.
The 14th-ranked Bulldogs, who led by as many as 40 points with 4:15 left, outhustled and outworked Santa Clara (16-17) in front of a sellout crowd of 7,845.
"We played great at both ends," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "We wanted to see if we could get the break going and play at our pace. Our defensive numbers were great."
The Zags forced 22 turnovers and turned them into 32 points.
Pargo was the quickest person on the floor. Santa Clara had no answer for him. Same for Austin Daye, who sliced and diced through the middle of the Broncos’ defense to finish with 28 points.
"Anytime you make extra possessions for your team, that’s a good thing," said Pargo, who had 16 points and three steals. "(Few) has been on us to pressure the ball."
Micah Downs, who added 18 points, said: "They run a lot of sets, and when we got after them, they were unable to get it to their perimeter shooters."
Tonight will mark Gonzaga’s 12th straight appearance in the WCC title game. The Zags have won in eight of their last 11 title game appearances.
San Diego’s dream run in the WCC tournament continued Sunday as the sixth-seeded Toreros upset No. 2 Portland 74-64 to earn a spot on today’s championship game at noon against top-seeded Gonzaga.
USD (19-12) built a 14-point lead late in the game after overcoming a 14-point first-half deficit. Kiva Herman had 22 points and Dominique Conners 20 for the Toreros.
The Bulldogs (25-6), led by Courtney Vandersloot’s 21 points and Jami Schaefer’s 20, eliminated No. 4 Loyola Marymount, 74-63.Slideshow
GONZAGA — 94
SANTA CLARA — 59
• KEY: The Bulldogs scored 32 points off the Broncos’ 22 turnovers.
Shaky Saint Mary’s earns date in finals