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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
A lopsided win over an overmatched opponent should do little to change the ranking for the Bulldogs in the AP poll .
After playing in 15 games during the 2013-14 season, Santa Clara senior forward Andrew Papenfus worked hard all offseason in hopes of getting an opportunity to help Kerry Keating’s Broncos in 2014-15. But after suffering a seizure while working a youth basketball camp in June, it was discovered that Papenfus had a non-cancerous brain tumor that needed to be removed.
In a story written by Steve Kroner of the San Francisco Chronicle Christmas Day, Papenfus stated that at first he wanted to hold off on undergoing the procedure until after the season ended. He would ultimately change his mind, undergoing surgery October 6 with the procedure being a successful one.
From that point forward the goal was simply to get back to full strength. And if that meant a return to basketball, even better.
Andrew seems at peace whether he returns to the court or not.
“If I can’t play, I’m not going to be removed from the game,” he said. “I’m still going to be there for my teammates, coaching them on the sidelines. Being what I can be in the capacity I can be. It’s more about the team than myself. …
“If I am able to play, dreams do come true. Through hard work, dedication and never giving up, you can make a lot of things happen that people think there’s no shot (of happening). I’ll never give up.
“I’ll keep striving to play. I do believe I’m going to play.”
Saturday night during the Broncos’ 78-57 loss at BYU, Papenfus made his season debut. While he didn’t score, missing both of his shot attempts, Papenfus did accumulate one rebound and one steal during his time on the floor. Following the game, BYU sent Papenfus a nice shout-out on Twitter.
College basketball’s non-conference season is coming to a close, and to help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.
Today we’ll be taking a look at the WCC, with conference play set to begin Saturday.
MIDSEASON WCC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tyler Haws, BYU
The 10-3 Cougars have four players averaging double figures, with one of the nation’s best scorers in Haws leading the way. Averaging 22.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, Haws is shooting 48.6% from the field, 41 percent from three and 88.6% from the foul line.
THE ALL-WCC FIRST TEAM
Tyler Haws, BYU
Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga: Few transfers in America have been as productive as Wiltjer (16.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) has been for the Bulldogs.
Brad Waldow, Saint Mary’s: Waldow’s averaging 21.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, shooting 55.5% from the field.
Stacy Davis, Pepperdine: Davis (16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.2 apg) is a big reason why the Waves are off to a 7-3 start.
Kyle Collinsworth, BYU: Averaging 14.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game, Collinsworth is the WCC’s most versatile player.
THREE THINGS WE’VE LEARNED
1. Gonzaga should be respected as a Final Four contender. Mark Few’s Bulldogs are ranked eighth nationally with an 11-1 record, with their lone defeat coming in overtime at No. 3 Arizona. Gonzaga’s front court, which features Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis, has been very good and the addition of Byron Wesley on the wing has helped as well. Add in senior Kevin Pangos, and the Bulldogs enter league play with five players averaging at least ten points per game.
2. Anson Winder’s been an impact reserve for BYU. To this point in the season Winder has been the most improved player in the WCC, as he’s gone from averaging 6.5 points and 1.8 rebounds per game in 2013-14 to 14.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest for the Cougars. And after reaching double figures in ten games last season, Winder’s already done so in 11 of BYU’s 12 games in 2014-15. Haws and Collinsworth are going to do the “heavy lifting” for BYU offensively, but the production of Winder and Chase Fischer (13.7 ppg) has been important for Dave Rose’s squad.
3. Offensive balance will continue to be key for Portland. Eric Reveno’s Pilots are off to a 9-3 start to the season, and one reason for the start has been their balance. Four starters, led by guards Alec Wintering (11.7 ppg) and Kevin Bailey (11.5), are averaging at least 10.2 points per game. However Bailey’s missed time with a left foot injury, and it remains to be seen just how long the Pilots will play without their sixth man. Until then, freshman D’Marques Tyson (8.3 ppg) will be asked to step forward in his reserve role.
THREE STORY LINES TO FOLLOW
1. Gonzaga’s point guard depth. With Josh Perkins (broken jaw) out since late November and possibly redshirting, Pangos has spent even more time on the ball. With his experience having Pangos run the show is no problem at all, but who steps forward to give him a rest or allow Pangos to look for his offense off the ball on occasion? One thing to keep in mind here is the addition of Vanderbilt transfer Eric McClellan, who becomes eligible in early January. In 12 games at Vanderbilt last season, McClellan averaged 14.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
2. The development of BYU’s front court. This became even more important when Nate Austin went down with a torn hamstring, thus leaving the Cougars without much in the way of experience in the paint. Players such as Luke Worthington, Isaac Neilson and Corbin Kaufusi have been asked to step forward, and they’ve all had their moments in the games since Austin’s injury. Austin’s numbers (3.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg) don’t jump off the page but he is BYU’s best big man when it comes to rebounding (Kyle Collinsworth leads all Cougars with 8.1 rpg), so the sooner he returns the better.
3. How many NCAA tournament bids will the WCC receive? Gonzaga’s a lock barring an epic collapse, and BYU looks to be in solid shape as well with their home win over Stanford looking better thanks to the Cardinal winning at Texas. But can the WCC earn more bids? Saint Mary’s has a win at Creighton on its resume, and they’ve also defeated two teams in New Mexico State and UC Irvine that should contend for their respective league titles, but that loss to Northern Arizona doesn’t help matters.
1. Gonzaga loses no more than three conference games for the 17th consecutive season. The Bulldogs will be challenged in conference play, especially on the road with a game at BYU opening things up Saturday. But this is a rather safe prediction to make given their track record. And they’ll once again win the WCC regular season title in the process.
2. Pepperdine will finish in the top half of the WCC. The Waves haven’t shot the ball as well as they would like, ranking eighth in field goal percentage and ninth in three-point percentage. But they’ve been good defensively, which is an important development for a team looking to account for the graduation of WCC Defensive POY Brendan Lane. Look for Stacy Davis and company to finish higher than seventh, which is what the league coaches predicted in October.
3. The WCC gets two NCAA tournament bids. While the story line to follow leaves open the door for Saint Mary’s, two bids seems likely for the WCC with Gonzaga and BYU being the recipients. Will Gonzaga have a shot at earning a one-seed for the second time in program history? By the time we get to late February, that may be the biggest NCAA tournament-related question for the WCC.
Arizona, Michigan State headline 2015 Wooden Legacy field
Thursday afternoon the Wooden Legacy was one of two early-season events to announce its field for next season, with traditional powers Arizona and Michigan State being part of the 2015 field.
Joining the Wildcats and Spartans in the field are Boise State, Boston College, Evansville, Providence, Santa Clara and UC Irvine. Of the eight teams in the field three reached the NCAA tournament last season, with Arizona and Michigan State reaching the Elite Eight and Providence dropping an exciting game to North Carolina in the Round of 64.
UC Irvine, which gave Arizona a run for its money Wednesday night, is the preseason favorite to win the Big West and Boise State was picked to finish second in the Mountain West.
The Wooden Legacy will be held November 26, 27 and 29, with the first two days of action being played on the Cal-State Fullerton campus. All four games on November 29 will be played at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
After seeing their streak of 11 straight WCC regular season titles (shared or outright) come to an end in 2011-12, Mark Few’s Gonzaga Bulldogs have won the last two conference titles. And given the talent that’s in Spokane, the expectation in the WCC is that the Bulldogs will extend their new streak to three in 2014-15. But to think that Gonzaga won’t be challenged at all in the WCC would be a mistake, with there being multiple teams capable of running with Bulldogs, including BYU, San Francisco and Saint Mary’s. In recent years the WCC has developed into a conference that will receive multiple NCAA tournament bids, and that should once again be the case in 2014-15.
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
1. Just one coaching change in the WCC: Only one program changed coaches at the end of last season, with alumnus and experienced coach Mike Dunlap replacing Max Good at Loyola Marymount. Dunlap has experience as a head coach at both the Division I, filling in for Steve Lavin at St. John’s, and NBA levels. But this job sets up to be a difficult one, with Anthony Ireland out of eligibility and WCC All-Freshman Team selection Gabe Levin deciding to transfer.
2. Kyle Collinsworth returns from a torn ACL: One of the biggest pre-NCAA tournament storylines in March was BYU’s loss of Collinsworth, who suffered a torn ACL in the WCC title game against Gonzaga. BYU was still in the field of 68 but they were without their best playmaker in the loss to Oregon. How close to 100 percent is Collinsworth? That’s the key question entering this season as BYU looks to dethrone Gonzaga, even with this potentially being Dave Rose’s deepest teams.
3. Gonzaga returns three starters, and they add some very good pieces as well: The Bulldogs’ most important personnel loss was center Sam Dower, but they’ve got more than enough talent to account for his graduation. Guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. return for their senior season, and they’ll be joined by newcomers such as USC transfer Byron Wesley, Vanderbilt transfer Eric McClellan (eligible in January) and freshmen Josh Perkins and Silas Melson. As for the front court, Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis pair up with starting big man Przemek Karnowski. Depth, talent, experience…Gonzaga has it all.
4. Nine of the league’s top ten scorers return: The only loss in this area is Loyola Marymount PG Anthony Ireland, who finished the season second in the WCC in scoring. Tyler Haws leads the way amongst WCC returning scorers, as he averaged 23.2 ppg last season, and Santa Clara guards Jared Brownridge (17.2 ppg) and Brandon Clark (16.9) were the highest-scoring tandem in the conference.
5. Transfers will have an significant impact on the conference title race: Given Gonzaga’s stature this goes without saying, with Wesley and Wiltjer both factoring into the rotation for Mark Few. But they aren’t the only contender looking to transfers for production. BYU will have Chase Fischer (Wake Forest) competing for minutes in a deep backcourt, and Saint Mary’s will expect significant contributions from Joe Coleman (Minnesota), Aaron Bright (Stanford) and Desmond Simmons (Washington).
PRESEASON WCC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tyler Haws, BYU
In the two seasons since he’s returned from his LDS mission, Haws has established himself as one of the nation’s best shooters (and scorers). Last season Haws accounted for 23.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, shooting 46.3% from the field, 40.4% from three and 88.1% from the foul line. Having won WCC Player of the Year honors last season, it would come as no surprise if Haws repeated that feat as a senior.
THE REST OF THE ALL-WCC FIRST TEAM:
Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga: One of the nation’s best shooters, Pangos averaged 14.4 points, 3.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game as a junior.
Stacy Davis, Pepperdine: Davis averaged 15.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in WCC play, earning first team All-WCC honors.
Brad Waldow, Saint Mary’s: Waldow’s been a mainstay in Moraga the last couple of years, and as a junior he shot 56.5% from the field and posted eight double-doubles.
Jared Brownridge, Santa Clara: Brownridge was one of the most productive freshmen in the nation in 2013-14, averaging 17.2 points per game and winning WCC Newcomer of the Year honors.
FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW:
Kyle Collinsworth, BYU
Kruize Pinkins, San Francisco
Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
Jeremy Major, Pepperdine
Johnny Dee, San Diego
BREAKOUT STAR: Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
The name is well-known based upon his time at Kentucky, but Wiltjer’s role will be far different in his first season as a Bulldog. Wiltjer will be a primary scoring option for Gonzaga, and that season spent on the sidelines should benefit him greatly. Wiltjer wasn’t placed on the WCC preseason all-conference team which is understandable given the fact that he didn’t play last year, but that won’t be the case in March.
COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Eric Reveno, Portland
After winning 19 games or more in three straight seasons (2008-11) the Pilots have finished below .500 in each of the last three campaigns. The good news for Portland is that their top two scorers, preseason All-WCC selection Thomas Van Der Mars and guard Kevin Bailey, return from last year’s group that finished 15-16 (7-11 WCC). Another piece of good news for the Pilots: they won’t play more than three straight road games in league play. Last season, Reveno’s Pilots played their last four regular season games on the road.
ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : Gonzaga looks poised to make a run deep into the NCAA tournament.
I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT : The depth at the guard positions in this league. There are a lot of talented perimeter players in the WCC this season, which will make for some fun nights in conference play.
FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:
December 6, Gonzaga at Arizona
November 24, BYU vs. San Diego State (Maui Invitational)
1. Gonzaga: The Bulldogs are loaded with offensive weapons, but how far the go in March will depend upon the progress made defensively.
2. BYU: Tyler Haws is one of the best players in the country, and Dave Rose has what could be his deepest team at BYU.
3. Saint Mary’s: Graduate transfers Aaron Bright (Stanford) and Desmond Simmons (Washington) bring additional experience, as does former Minnesota guard Joe Coleman.
4. San Francisco: Rex Walters lost his two most productive players in Cole Dickerson and Avry Holmes, but the Dons won’t lack for talent.
5. Portland: The tandem of Van Der Mars and Bailey could potentially push Portland into the top half of the WCC.
6. San Diego: The Toreros have one of the better backcourt duos on the west coast in Christopher Anderson and Johnny Dee, but they need Jito Kok to bounce back from an underwhelming sophomore campaign.
7. Pepperdine: Stacy Davis receives a lot of the pub when it comes to the Waves, but guard Jeremy Major can play as well.
8. Santa Clara: Guards Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark are the leaders for a young team that could still be one year away from a major jump in the standings.
9. Pacific: The Tigers were a senior-laden group in their WCC debut. That won’t be the case this season, with sophomore guard T.J. Wallace among those expected to step forward.
10. Loyola Marymount: Given the personnel losses and the transition to a new system, this could be a tough year for the Lions in Mike Dunlap’s first season at his alma mater.