Gonzaga Bulldogs

WATCH: Xavier scores a basket off the ground, Macura’s buzzer-beater waved off

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Xavier, the No. 11 seed in the West region, needed a few break to go its way in order to stay with top-seeded Gonzaga in the first half of the Elite Eight matchup from San Jose on Saturday evening.

Just before halftime, the Musketeers got the ball to bounce their way. Literally. Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams and Xavier’s RaShid Gaston battled for a rebound. Williams inadvertently spiked the ball off the basket, off himself and off the backboard for a two-board bucket for Xavier.

The bucket was awarded to Gaston. It was two of Gaston’s five first half points.

Less than 30 seconds later, J.P. Macura tried to top Gaston’s unlikely field goal with a bank shot of his own. Following a bucket from Nigel Williams-Goss, Macura heaved a three-quarters court at the buzzer. However, after reviewing the play, it was waved off.

The Zags led 49-39 entering halftime.

No. 4 Gonzaga tops Santa Clara

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nigel Williams-Goss had 25 points and eight rebounds, and No. 4 Gonzaga secured a spot in the West Coast Conference title game for the 20th straight season with a 77-68 victory over pesky Santa Clara on Monday night.

Przemek Karnowski added 19 points and seven boards for the Bulldogs (31-1), who dominated inside in winning their second straight since their loss to BYU.

Gonzaga will seek its fifth straight conference championship Tuesday night against the winner of the late game Monday between No. 19 Saint Mary’s and BYU.

Jared Brownridge scored 32 points for Santa Clara (17-16), which has dropped 15 in a row to Gonzaga.

The Broncos, who lost to Gonzaga by 31 and 35 points during the regular season, played their second straight game without second-leading scorer K.J. Feagin, who was sidelined by a concussion. Then two of their starters, Emmanuel Ndumanya and Nate Kratch, each had four fouls before the second half was 5 minutes old.

But they stayed in the game behind the dynamic Brownridge, who hit 12 of 25 shots. Santa Clara cut a 15-point deficit to 56-51 on Kratch’s bucket with 8:59 left.

Gonzaga answered with Karnowski’s half-hook and two free throws and a layup from Williams-Goss during an 8-2 run.

When the Broncos again rallied to 68-63, Williams-Goss drained his only 3-pointer with 1:43 left. Las Vegas native Zach Collins’ 3 with 47 seconds left made it 74-65.

The Zags shot 56 percent from the field and had 46 points in the paint.

BIG PICTURE

Santa Clara: Herb Sendek inherited an 11-21 team and got the Broncos into the WCC semifinals for the first time in six years. The former North Carolina State and Arizona State coach overcame seven players missing time with injuries and posted a winning record in his first season.

Gonzaga: The Zags became the nation’s first 31-win team and can likely cement its status as a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament with a victory in the final Tuesday.

DEFLATEGATE?

The teams combined to make their first three shots with a ball that was under-inflated. Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins appeared to bring it to the officials’ attention during a stoppage in play 1:31 into the game. There was a delay of over a minute before a new ball was produced.

UP NEXT

Santa Clara: Sendek will need to replace seniors Brownridge and Kratch next season. Each played in all 129 games the past four years.

Gonzaga: The Zags will attempt to extend their conference tournament winning streak to 14 in Tuesday’s final.

Karnowski leads No. 4 Gonzaga past Santa Clara 88-57

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Coming off a big win in a showdown with rival Saint Mary’s, No. 4 Gonzaga could have been in for a bit of a letdown.

Seeing another frenzied crowd hoping for an upset was more than enough to keep the Bulldogs on their game.

Przemek Karnowski scored 19 points on just seven shots from the field and Gonzaga remained the only undefeated team in Division I with an 88-57 victory over Santa Clara on Thursday night.

“I’ve been here for five years and basically wherever you go it’s the biggest game of the season, in the conference at least,” Karnowski said. “We have to be prepared for that. Their crowd was really into it. We came out focused and I liked our intensity.”

Karnowski made six shots against the undersized Broncos and added seven more points from the free throw line to help the Bulldogs (18-0, 6-0 West Coast Conference) extend the best start in school history with another lopsided win.

Zach Collins had 16 points and Nigel Williams-Goss added 11 points and 10 rebounds in Gonzaga’s 11th straight double-digit win.

“Every game they come out ready to go,” coach Mark Few said. “They come out with energy, effort, and attention to detail has been really good. They’re a mature group.”

Jared Brownridge scored 23 points to lead the Broncos (10-10, 4-3) but got little help from his teammates as Santa Clara dropped its 13th straight to Gonzaga and 37th in the past 39 meetings.

“We just were stagnant on the offensive end – it had everything to do with us,” Brownridge said. “They’re a great team, there’s no argument about it. Tonight’s game had to do with us.”

Gonzaga scored 13 straight points midway through the first half to open a 20-point lead and never looked back as Santa Clara struggled to get open shots and couldn’t keep the Bulldogs out of the paint.

Brownridge keyed a 15-5 run early in the second half that cut a 21-point lead to 11 but the Bulldogs quickly built the lead back to 20 and coasted to the win.

BIG PICTURE

Gonzaga: After easily passing their first true test in conference play with a 23-point win over then-No. 21 Saint Mary’s on Saturday, the Bulldogs avoided a letdown by building the big early lead. There don’t figure to be many tough tests the rest of the regular season outside of a return trip to Saint Mary’s next month so the main task for Gonzaga will be to maintain their intensity before for the tournaments in March.

Santa Clara: The Broncos came into the game having won four of five but it was a different level of competition this game. They missed 14 of their first 18 shots – with six air balls – and never had a chance at the upset. They struggled to get any consistent offense outside of Brownridge and were overmatched inside in coach Herb Sendek’s first game against the class of the WCC.

DEFENDING BROWNRIDGE

Brownridge moved into seventh place on the WCC all-time scoring list with 2,079 points, jumping ahead of Loyola Marymount’s Forrest McKenzie. He made six 3-pointers but Few was happy with the overall defensive effort.

“Brownridge is an unbelievable player and he’s unbelievably gifted coming off those pin-downs and finding his shots,” Few said. “I thought we did a nice job, mixed up the coverages and made it hard, not just on him, but everyone else.”

LIVING AT THE LINE

Santa Clara committed six fouls in the first 4:13 of the second half and Gonzaga lived at the free throw line from there. The Bulldogs shot 18 for 23 from the line in the second half as they repeatedly fed Karnowski and Collins inside.

“They were in the double bonus early in the second half so we tried to take advantage of that and tried to go inside and pin fouls on them,” Karnowski said.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

A lopsided win over an overmatched opponent should do little to change the ranking for the Bulldogs in the AP poll .

UP NEXT

Gonzaga: Hosts Portland on Saturday.

Santa Clara: Hosts Loyola Marymount on Saturday.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Ending perfection: Team that nearly beat both Gonzaga and Baylor gives their thoughts

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And then there were two.

Baylor and Gonzaga stand as the last two undefeated teams of the 2016-17 season with matching 15-0 records. The Bears have ascended to No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 while the ‘Zags are fifth. Together, they’ve played a combined eight games that have been decided by single digits as they’ve run to their perfect records.

One team nearly gave both their first L of the season, playing them to a one-possession game with an opportunity to take the final shot of the game.

Iowa State has come as close as anyone at topping the nation’s last blemish-free programs. The Cyclones lost to Gonzaga, 73-71, in November, and to Baylor, 65-63, last week.

“They’re 30-0,” Cyclones coach Steve Prohm told NBCSports.com, “and we were in a possession game with both of them.”

Baylor faces its toughest test of the season tonight at No. 10 West Virginia while Gonzaga has Loyola Marymount on Thursday before hosting No. 21 St. Mary’s on Saturday.

Here’s what Iowa State had to say about the two teams still hanging on to perfection.

What’s allowed them to remain undefeated?

Prohm: “The length, the size up front, the skill. When you’re building a team, that’s what you look at. You want a skilled four, you want a five with motor, back to the basket and then guards who can make plays off the dribble and make shots. I think Gonzaga’s guards are terrific. They shot it really well against us. We gave them too many threes.

“Both coaches do a great job. They both recruit really, really well. They’ve done a great job.”

How to beat Gonzaga

Prohm: “Gonzaga really, really wants to get that thing up and down the floor. The biggest thing against Gonzaga is you’ve got to slow them down and then you’ve got to decide how you want to guard (7-foot center Przemek) Karnowski. Do you want to play him one-on-one, double him? The one thing we had success is we were able to run them over some and slow them down with some three-quarter court pressure to slow the game down a little bit.

“The more you can slow them down, change defenses is big.”

Point guard Monte Morris: “It’s going to be a night where they’re not shooting it great.”

How to beat Baylor

Prohm: “They don’t attack all night. Gonzaga wants to be in the 90s. Baylor’s OK with 65-63 because they’re going to slow you down on their end of the floor defensively because they’re going to make you work against their zone.”

Morris: “Guys making shots out of the zone. It’s about guarding them well, slowing (Johnathan) Motley down and making other guys make plays, and your guys making plays.”

College Basketball Talk Top 25: Villanova is the new No. 1

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1. Villanova (14-0, Last Week: No. 2): It feels like what Villanova is doing this season is still flying under the radar despite the fact that they are undefeated and the No. 1 team in the country while staking claim as the reigning national champions.

2. UCLA (14-1, 3): UCLA lost on the road on a game-winner with 0.7 seconds left to a team that I now have in the top ten, a team that was in the preseason top five before we realized that Dillon Brooks, who is now healthy and mowing down opponents, wasn’t at 100 percent to start the year. I’m not concerned in the least.

3. Kansas (12-1, 4): The Jayhawks survived a scrappy TCU team in their Big 12 opener thanks to a punishing performance from center Landen Lucas. He has suddenly turned into the most important player on the Kansas team now that Udoka Azubuike is out for the year with a wrist injury.

4. Kentucky (11-2, 5): Kentucky put together their most complete performance on the season last week when they beat Ole Miss in Oxford. Isaiah Briscoe put up a triple-double, Bam Adebayo played his best game of the season and Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox did the things that Monk and Fox do.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

5. Duke (12-2, 1): So what do we do with the Blue Devils? I’m still in the camp that says that Duke has the highest ceiling of any team in the country, and I also think we’ve underrated just how good Virginia Tech is this season; the Hokies would be undefeated right now if they hadn’t choked away a loss to Texas A&M in the Wooden Legacy semifinals. This isn’t like Duke going to Boston College and taking a beating.

But Duke still took a beating, and the biggest concern was that the Blue Devils seemed to lack the effort and the intensity to make the plays they needed to make defensively. They almost looked selfish offensively, as the lack of a point guard on that roster was glaring. They played without Grayson Allen, who was serving the first game of his suspension, but the issues Duke had on display were much bigger than Allen.

Put another way, Saturday made me think that Duke may not ever get to their ceiling. But hey, at least Harry Giles III finally scored a point.

(UPDATE: And now Coach K will miss up to a month to recover from back surgery.)

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Five Takeaways

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6. Gonzaga (14-0, 8): The Bulldogs were pushed by both Pacific and Pepperdine this week, but came out unscathed with double-digit wins. There is a real chance that Gonzaga could head into Moraga on Feb. 11th as the lone undefeated team in college basketball.

7. Baylor (14-0, 9): The Bears keep rolling along. On Saturday, they opened up Big 12 play by mollywhopping Oklahoma in Norman. It is going to be fun when the Bears get together with Kansas this season, on Feb. 1st and Feb. 18th.

8. Wisconsin (12-2, 11): While Indiana lost twice last week and Purdue dropped a home game to Minnesota, the Badgers continue to roll along. Since Nigel Hayes made the change to being a point forward, the Badgers have looked like a totally different team.

9. Louisville (12-2, 7): Outside of Duke, Louisville is the hardest team in this poll to rank. They beat Kentucky, but they beat Kentucky by three in a game they were favored by two on their home floor, the same home floor where they were smacked around by Virginia just five days ago. But then the Cardinals turned around and gave Indiana a similar whooping in Indiana. Wherever you have them ranked, here’s what you need to admit: the Cards are, right now, as good as, if not better than any team in the ACC.

10. Oregon (13-2, 21): Oregon vaults up to No. 10 in our poll for one, simple reason: they’re back.

11. West Virginia (12-1, 12)
12. North Carolina (12-3, 6)
13. Creighton (13-1, 10)
14. Florida State (14-1, 25)
15. Virginia (11-2, 18)
16. Xavier (12-2, 16)
17. Saint Mary’s (12-1, 17)
18. Arizona (14-2, 22)
19. Cincinnati (13-2, 20)
20. Butler (12-2, 13)
21. Purdue (12-3, 14)
22. Virginia Tech (12-1, UR)
23. Notre Dame (12-2, 23)
24. USC (14-1, 19)
25. Indiana (10-4, 15)

DROPPED OUT: No. 24 Seton Hall
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 22 Virginia Tech

No. 8 Gonzaga beats Tennessee, 86-76, improves to 11-0

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mark Few wondered how his eighth-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs would handle a nine-day break for exams, traveling cross country and playing in front of a heavily orange crowd.

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes saw enough Sunday to think Few and Gonzaga still might be undefeated when March rolls around.

Nigel Williams-Goss scored 20 points, and Gonzaga remained unbeaten by holding off Tennessee 86-76.

“I thought they did good, especially the way we started the first half,” Few said. “Usually when you come out of finals like this, you’re a little bit concerned about losing rhythm. We had some pretty good rhythm going into finals. Gave them several days off, I was a little bit worried about that. They responded.”

Gonzaga (11-0) hadn’t played since beating Akron on Dec. 10 and looked strong as it scored the first eight points and never trailed. The Bulldogs led 27-6 on a jumper by Zach Collins with 12:06 left, 43-29 at halftime and 64-48 midway through the second half.

Tennessee (6-5) went on a 10-3 run and got within 75-71 on a jumper by Robert Hubbs III with 2:26 left.

Josh Perkins then hit a jumper as Gonzaga held on for its fourth straight win in the five games between these teams.

“Obviously we weren’t perfect, but to come in here and beat a good Tennessee team by double digits, and pretty much control the entire game, I thought we did a good job,” Williams-Goss said. “But there’s room to grow.”

This was billed as the Battle of Broadway played at Bridgestone Arena, so technically it was a neutral court – except for all the fans wearing Tennessee orange in the seats. Those fans got very loud as the Vols made their run.

Barnes wasn’t happy with how the Vols started, and he’s tiring of coming close in losses.

“It’s one thing being talked about as being a scrappy team that fights all the time, but at some point in time we’ve got to want to be more than that,” he said. “We’ve got to want to play 40 minutes, and we haven’t done that at any point in time this year.”

Detrick Mostella led Tennessee with 17 points and Hubbs had 10.

The Vols played without 6-foot-7 freshman John Fulkerson, who missed his first game since dislocating his right elbow in Thursday night’s win over Lipscomb. Fulkerson is expected to miss six weeks with the injury.

BIG PICTURE

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs came in as one of six undefeated teams in the Top 25 and did nothing to hurt their stock after their break. … They improved to 12-8 all-time against Southeastern Conference teams and 2-0 this season. Gonzaga beat Florida last month. … With 7-1 center Karnowski and 6-9 Johnathan Williams, the Bulldogs outrebounded Tennessee 42-38.

Tennessee: This was the Vols’ fourth game in eight days, a stretch that started a week ago with a 73-71 loss in Chapel Hill to No. 7 North Carolina. … Barnes now is 0-5 against Gonzaga and 0-4 against Few. … Freshman Grant Williams scored 30 points in the Vols’ last game and finished with 11.

QUOTABLE

“I think he’s got as good a team as he’s ever had,” Barnes said of Few. “I think he’s going to become an even bigger story in college basketball because if you look ahead, he’s always done tremendous things with his team in the league and he could be the first time in a long time that you’ve got a team capable of being undefeated heading into postseason play.”

FOUL TROUBLE

The officiating crew of Karl Hess, Jamie Luckie and Brent Hampton called 56 fouls combined. Gonzaga and Tennessee each had a player foul out with Silas Melson playing 18 minutes before his fifth foul for the Bulldogs, while Jordan Bowden had nine points in 27 minutes for the Vols. Gonzaga finished the game with four players having four fouls apiece.

UP NEXT

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs host South Dakota on Wednesday.

Tennessee: At East Tennessee State on Thursday night.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25 .