LAS VEGAS -- In the semifinal round of the West Coast Conference tournament, No. 17 Gonzaga found itself in a tussle against a team that won one regular-season conference game.
After a tense first 10 minutes Sunday, Gonzaga pulled away for an 87-47 victory behind a game-high 18 points from Heather Bowman. It was the Bulldogs' 16th straight win, and puts them in Monday's title game for the fifth time in six years."It took us a little while to get our bearings straight tonight," said Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves, whose team only led 13-12 with 10:30 left. "But once we got it rolling, we cranked up the defense a little bit. When we can get offense off our defense, we can be pretty good, and that's when we're at our best. It was a good first game."
The Bulldogs will play Pepperdine, which beat Saint Mary's 62-56, for the title Monday.Vivian Frieson added 12 points, five rebounds and three steals for Gonzaga (26-4), which went unbeaten in the conference during the regular season. Courtney Vandersloot and Janelle Bekkering each added 10 points, and Vandersloot had eight assists and three steals."The fact that we beat them twice, in the regular season didn't matter to us," Vandersloot said. "We knew that in a tournament, anything could happen."Maggie Goldenberger led Santa Clara (5-27) with 14 points and five rebounds.The Broncos won their first two games of the tournament, including Saturday's 68-67 overtime win over San Diego. Goldenberger hit the game-winner with 3 seconds left in that one."We ran out of gas a little bit," said Santa Clara coach Jennifer Mountain, who played at Gonzaga from 1987-91 and was an assistant coach there from 2001-08. "They have 12 people at anytime that can go 15 to 20 points a night."They got us into taking quick shots -- long rebounds turned into layups at the other end. They're so long and athletic in every spot."The Bulldogs jumped out to a 9-4 advantage, and after the Broncos cut that lead to 13-12, Gonzaga went on a 19-3 run to eventually lead 46-23 at halftime. The Gonzaga lead never got below 23 in the second half and grew to as many as 44 in the final two minutes.The Bulldogs will be going for their third tournament title in the past four seasons -- winning in 2007 and '09. Gonzaga also has won the WCC regular-season title the last six years.