David Stockton's twisting layup with 1.4 seconds left lifted Gonzaga past Santa Clara 77-75 at the WCC Tournament on Saturday. The victory sends GU (26-6) into a semifinal matchup Monday at 6 against No. 4 Saint Mary's, which defeated No. 5 Pepperdine late Saturday night.
The Bulldogs trailed most of the game before catching the Broncos in the final 5 minutes. Sam Dower Jr. made 15 of 15 free throws and scored 23 points. Przemek Karnowski added 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Santa Clara's Jared Brownridge put on a shooting clinic in the first half, using his quick-trigger release to score 18 of his 24 points. His jumper tied it at 75 before Stockton's game-winner.
My unedited game story is below.
By Jim Meehan
LAS VEGAS – Gonzaga’s five-point lead vanished in a 24-second span, leaving the Bulldogs tied with 9.1 seconds left on the clock.
The Bulldogs drew up a play for Sam Dower Jr. to set a screen out front for David Stockton. The rest depended on how Santa Clara elected to defend the ball screen.
Stockton made the right read, weaved down the lane and hit a twisting layup with 1.4 seconds left to lift top-seeded Gonzaga past the Broncos 77-75 in the WCC Tournament quarterfinals in front of 7,688 Saturday at Orleans Arena.
Stockton’s shot gave Gonzaga (26-6) a white-knuckle victory and a spot in the semifinals against No. 4 Saint Mary’s at 6 p.m. Monday at Orleans Arena. It also put an exclamation point on a memorable day for the Stockton family. David found out when he entered the locker room that sister Laura and Gonzaga Prep won a state title earlier Saturday.
“Pretty cool,” he said.
Stockton’s layup with 4:30 left put the Zags on top, 64-63, their first lead since 5:22 remained in the first half. He came around a Przemek Karnowski screen and the lane was virtually empty.
The paint was more crowded on his game-winner. He shed Jared Brownridge on Dower’s screen, but Denzel Johnson quickly switched.
“Just attack,” Stockton said, “and if they help, I have shooters (Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. on the wings). If they lock on to shooters, that’s where the opportunity was.”
It was the second time this season that the Zags broke Santa Clara’s hearts. In late January, Dower’s 3-pointer in the closing seconds on an improvised play handed Gonzaga a 54-52 win.
This time, it was Stockton’s clutch shot and Dower’s clutch free-throw shooting that helped GU hold off the ninth-seeded Broncos (14-19).
Brownridge, a talented freshman guard who was the WCC newcomer of the year, blitzed Gonzaga with 12 of SCU’s first 14 points. He poured in 18 points in the first half, including a 3-pointer that expanded Santa Clara’s lead to 37-29. The Broncos converted Gonzaga’s 10 first-half turnovers into a 17-2 edge in points off turnovers.
“Brownridge with that pull-up,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said, “I was telling Adam (Morrison) he’s the only kid I’ve seen since Adam that can hit that closely guarded shot.”
Gonzaga closed the gap in the second half, but the Broncos took advantage of several defensive lapses to retain the lead. At one point, GU had made 56 percent of its field-goal attempts and still trailed 59-54 after the Broncos scored on six consecutive possessions.
Dower made 10 free throws in the last 7 minutes, his confidence growing with each connection. He was fouled hauling in a defensive rebound with 1:32 left and he quickly stationed himself at the free-throw line while teammates and five Broncos were near mid court.
“I was trying to get to the line as much as possible,” said Dower, who finished 15 of 15 at the stripe to share the school record held by Frank Burgess and Geoff Goss and equal the WCC Tournament mark. “My other shots weren’t falling but I knew I could get to the line.”
Just when it appeared Gonzaga was safely in front, 75-70, Evan Roquemore had a three-point play and Bell was whistled for traveling. Brownridge, held in check most of the second half, buried a jumper to tie it.
Few opted to put the ball in Stockton’s hands.
“He has a real knack for kind of making plays at the end of games in all our situational things we do (in practice), a winning knack,” Few said. “That’s why I felt he was best guy to put in a full-court, ball-screen situation.”
Dower led GU with 23 points. Karnowski added 16 points and 12 rebounds. Bell scored 13 points and Stockton added eight points and four assists.