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Pargo leads GU into WCC championship

Back with the game story from Gonzaga’s convincing 94-59 win over Santa Clara. The unedited version is below.

UPDATE: No. 2 Saint Mary’s pulled away late for a 71-61 victory over No. 3 Portland. Patty Mills’ shot was a little rusty but the rest of his game looked pretty sharp, considering he was coming off a five-week absence due to a broken right hand.

 


By Jim Meehan

Staff writer

LAS VEGAS – There generally isn’t a precise turning point in a 35-point victory, but there were a couple of plays that symbolized Gonzaga’s 94-59 dismantling of Santa Clara in the WCC men’s tournament semifinals Sunday at the Orleans Arena.

Both revolved around GU senior guard Jeremy Pargo. The first came with the Bulldogs leading by four with 7:10 remaining in the first half. Austin Daye missed a pair of free throws and the Broncos appeared poised to grab the rebound until Pargo jetted in and snatched the loose ball. The hustle play led to Matt Bouldin’s 3-pointer and a competitive game took on the first signs of a blowout.

About four minutes later, Pargo poked the ball away from Santa Clara rebounding machine John Bryant and chased it down. With nobody in pursuit, Pargo continued into the corner and buried a 3-pointer. He followed that up with another 3-pointer 30 seconds later and Gonzaga was on its way to handing the Broncos their worst WCC Tournament loss.

“Anytime you can make extra possessions for your team it’s always good,” said Pargo, who had 14 of his 16 points in the first half as Gonzaga took command 48-27, to the delight of the vast majority of the 7,845 in attendance.

“We were kind of hanging in at 25-21 and they missed the two free throws and there was a loose ball we couldn’t come up with,” said Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating, whose fourth-seeded club finished 16-17. “It seemed like it kind of deflated our guys a little bit.”

There was non-stop deflation ahead. The Bulldogs never slowed down on offense and their defense kept forcing turnovers, which often led to dunks or layups at the other end.

The 14th-ranked Bulldogs (25-5), which handed Santa Clara its worst WCC loss (95-53) in Spokane in mid January, will play for the WCC title for the 12th straight season. They’ll take on the winner of the Saint Mary’s-Portland game.

“We played great on both ends,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “We really wanted to establish this on the defensive end and see if we could get out and get the break going, play at our pace instead of theirs. To a man, the guys executed perfectly.”

Pargo made his first five shots. Daye collected 13 of his career-high 28 points in the first 20 minutes. His aggressive drives to the basket resulted in three trips to the free-throw line, where he made 4 of 6. Daye was 6 of 6, including two 3-pointers, from the field in the second half.

“He played with confidence,” senior forward Micah Downs said of Daye, whose point production had dropped off over the last half of the WCC regular season. “When he does that and he’s hitting 3s, he’s virtually unstoppable because of his ability to take people off the dribble and also to post up.”

Gonzaga forced 22 turnovers from the team with the worst turnover margin in the conference. Bryant, the player of the year coming off a 24-point, 27-rebound effort against San Diego, finished with another double-double, but it went virtually unnoticed. He had one field goal in the first half. He finished with 13 points, four coming after the Bulldogs’ lead had swelled to 32 midway through the second half. Gonzaga’s Josh Heytvelt was quiet offensively, too, but he was effective defending Bryant.

“Gonzaga likes to dig down with their guards, that’s really why I wasn’t that aggressive because I couldn’t dribble the ball,” said Bryant, adding that Heytvelt “did a good job.”

On the offensive end, Gonzaga had 21 assists – seven from Bouldin and five each from Pargo and Demetri Goodson – while committing only 11 turnovers. It was Gonzaga’s highest assist total since distributing 22 against Pepperdine on Jan. 22.

“One of the things we really focus on is trying to get our break going against teams that want to slow it down,” Pargo said. “Once we get our break going it’s really hard to beat us when we’re playing like that and having fun.”

 


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Jim Meehan (@srjimm) Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Sean Kramer Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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