SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Unusual things seem to happen when Gonzaga plays at the Leavey Center.
Two years ago, it was Brody Angley’s inexplicable foul on Steven Gray 70 feet from Gonzaga’s basket with Santa Clara nursing a two-point lead in the last seconds. Gray made both free throws and Gonzaga went on to win in double overtime. Last year it was a technical foul assessed to the Broncos when a fan hurled a plastic bottle onto the court, helping GU stretch its lead from seven to 12 en route to an 81-73 win.
And Thursday may have been the strangest yet. Down 14 five minutes into the second half, the Bulldogs staged a furious rally to overtake Santa Clara 71-64 Thursday, leaving a near capacity crowd of mostly Broncos backers stunned.
Don’t let the final score fool you. Gonzaga trailed most of the way until Manny Arop’s tip-in with 4:01 left gave the Bulldogs a 65-64 lead. That.would prove to be more than enough as the Broncos didn’t score after Michael Santos’ 3-point play with 5:55 left. Santa Clara managed just three points in the final nine minutes and six over the last 13 minutes.
The 13th-ranked Bulldogs won their 26th straight WCC regular-season game. This one kept Gonzaga (17-3, 6-0 WCC) one game ahead of Saint Mary’s.
Robert Sacre made a jump hook in the lane to bump GU’s lead to 3. Santa Clara (9-14, 1-5) missed two 3-point attempts and Steven Gray’s layup boosted Gonzaga’s lead to 69-64 with 21 seconds remaining. The Broncos turned the ball over and Bouldin’s layup capped the Bulldogs’ closing 18-3 run.
Bouldin and Gray each scored 19 points. Elias Harris chipped in 16.
Niyi Harrison led Santa Clara with 14 points. The Broncos were aiming for their first win over a ranked opponent since upsetting No. 4 North Carolina in 2004.