5:30 PM ET, March 3, 2005
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) _ Ashley Burke scored 16 of her 18 points in the second half and Gonzaga (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) extended its winning streak to 22 games with a 77-42 victory against Portland in the first round of the West Coast Conference tournament Thursday. The Bulldogs' winning streak is the longest current stretch in Division I women's basketball. Shannon Mathews also had 18 points and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs (26-2), who are seeking their first conference championship after going unbeaten in league play during the regular season. Gonzaga is the only WCC team without a conference title but needs just two more wins to end that drought and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs put away the Pilots (6-22) with a dominant second half. Gonzaga, which defeated Portland 81-35 five days earlier, held just a four-point lead at halftime but broke the game open with a 19-2 run in the second half, sparked by a pair of free throws by Burke and a 3-pointer from Mathews. Burke, who took just three shots in the first half, was perfect in the second half, going 5-for-5 from the field and 6-for-6 from the line. Stephanie Hawk and Delphine Lecoultre added 14 points apiece for Gonzaga. Whitney Grant scored 16 points and had three rebounds and three assists for Portland. Jamie Medley added 13 points and Meagan Bermingham 10 for the Pilots. The Bulldogs missed nine of their first 12 shots from the floor but didn't have any problem taking control early against the Pilots. Mathews got Gonzaga going with 10 points in the first half, including seven during a 17-6 run that left the Bulldogs with a 24-8 lead with 6:30 before halftime. Portland shook its shooting slump and closed out the half with a 14-2 run to pull within 26-22 at the break but could not keep up with the Bulldogs the rest of the way.