SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The only thing similar to the first meeting was the fact that Gonzaga won.
Other than that, the Bulldogs were pushed throughout by Santa Clara before using a couple of late surges – and a helping hand or two from a rowdy crowd at the Leavey Center – to hold off the Broncos 81-73 Thursday at Santa Clara, Calif., in men’s basketball.
No. 17 Gonzaga (22-5, 13-0 West Coast Conference) won its 20th straight regular-season conference game. The Bulldogs, who handed Santa Clara its worst loss in school history (95-43 in January in Spokane), can earn their third unbeaten WCC season in six years with a win at San Diego on Saturday.
Senior center Josh Heytvelt poured in 29 points, breaking the career high of 28 he set in Saturday’s win over Pepperdine.
Both teams shot lights out for the first 30 minutes as Santa Clara took a 53-50 lead. The Bulldogs scored the next six points and a few minutes later added a 9-0 run to pull in front 67-58.
During the latter spurt, Santa Clara was hit with a technical foul after a fan tossed a pop bottle onto the court. The incident came after Heytvelt had followed his own miss with a putback while getting fouled by Ben Dowdell.
Matt Bouldin hit both foul shots and Heytvelt completed his three-point play with a free throw to give GU a nine-point lead with 4:36 left. The Broncos were within 70-63 when someone in the crowd tossed another object onto the court, drawing another technical foul. Bouldin made both free throws and Jeremy Pargo’s driving layup helped Gonzaga to a 75-63 edge.
It still wasn’t over. Santa Clara pulled within six three times in the final minute but Bouldin and Micah Downs combined to make 6 of 6 free throws.
Bouldin was 13 of 15 at the free-throw line and finished with 23 points. Austin Daye added 12 points and Pargo 10.
Kevin Foster led Santa Clara (14-16, 6-7) with 20 points, but he didn’t score in the last 14 minutes. Bryant and James Rahon each had 16.