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Gonzaga opens conference with win

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- Derek Raivio is glad he prepared
himself in the preseason for the point guards of the West Coast
Conference by facing Oklahoma State's John Lucas, Georgia Tech's
Jarrett Jack and Dee Brown of top-ranked Illinois.

Gonzaga's star sophomore might just be establishing himself as
one of the country's elite at his position.

Raivio scored a career-high 32 points, made six 3-pointers and
hit all 10 of his free throws, and the Bulldogs (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today; No. 11 AP) opened
defense of their West Coast Conference title with a heated 91-87
victory over Santa Clara on Thursday night.

"Playing against all the top guards in the nation has been a
great experience," Raivio said. "It got me prepared for whoever
comes at me because I've already played against the best."

Adam Morrison added 18 points and Erroll Knight had 11 points
and eight rebounds in the first game for the Zags (11-2) since they
had their seven-game winning streak snapped with a 63-61 loss to
Missouri on Dec. 30.

They sent the Broncos to their fifth straight loss. Gonzaga has
won nine in a row in the series and the last five at the Leavey
Center, where Santa Clara's students packed the soldout arena more
than an hour before game time to taunt the visitors during warmups.

Doron Perkins scored 18 of his 22 points in the first half for
Santa Clara (7-9), but went cold after halftime. He scored nine
straight -- with a four-point play and a 3-pointer -- to almost
single-handedly get the Broncos back in the game after they fell
behind by 15. He also had nine rebounds and four steals, and drew
the assignment of defending Morrison, who at 6-foot-8 has a 6-inch
height advantage.

"I feel like every time the win is right there and they take it
away," Santa Clara's Kyle Bailey said of playing the Zags. "I'll
get it figured out. I'd hate to come back for a sixth year just to
beat them."

The momentum swung in Gonzaga's favor when Perkins was whistled
for a technical foul with 17:26 left after pounding the ball down
in frustration on a jump ball call.

Raivio converted both free throws, then hit a 3 with 16:04
remaining to make it 57-53. Raivio's 3 with 13:28 to go made it
66-57.

Perkins and Morrison were called for a double-technical after
tangling on the floor under Gonzaga's basket with 2:52 left. Santa
Clara's Travis Niesen got a technical just over a minute later
after Santa Clara pulled within 80-77. Raivio made both free
throws, then J.P. Batista made the front end of a 1-and-1 and Ronny
Turiaf got the rebound and Niesen picked up his fifth foul.

Bailey had 26 points with six 3s -- two in the final minute -- and
Niesen had 17 for Santa Clara, which had an inconsistent preseason
that included upset wins over North Carolina and Stanford but also
disappointing defeats to Cal Poly and Central Connecticut.

Santa Clara attempted 33 3-pointers, third most ever by the
Broncos. They only made 13.

"They did better in the clutch than we did," Santa Clara coach
Dick Davey said. "But we've got seven weeks to try and improve
that."

Turiaf, Gonzaga's second-leading scorer who missed two free
throws with a chance to tie it with 8.4 seconds left against
Missouri, struggled again and played most of the game in foul
trouble.

Turiaf, battling two ankle injuries, had four points in 15
minutes after being held to six on 2-for-15 shooting against the
Tigers.

These are the kind of close games Gonzaga is expecting during
the conference campaign, and the Bulldogs realize it won't be easy
to go unbeaten through the WCC season as they did a year ago.

"There are going to be a lot of those this season," Gonzaga
coach Mark Few said. "This league is the best it's ever been."

Gonzaga has won or shared seven of the last nine regular-season
WCC titles and five of the last six WCC tournament championships.

This was a highly anticipated rematch of last year's WCC
tournament semifinal, won 63-62 by Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are
favored to win the league again, but there's been a lot of hype
this preseason that the conference is stronger and the Zags might
finally be beatable.

They'll get another big test Saturday at Saint Mary's, picked to
finish second in the WCC.

A moment of silence was held before the game in remembrance of
those who died in the tsunami and students took collections for the
Red Cross at the door.