SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)—For all the national attention No. 24 Gonzaga gets for playing a tough non-conference schedule, coach Mark Few takes the most pride in the wins at places like Loyola Marymount, Portland and Pepperdine.
The Bulldogs routed Santa Clara 88-54 on Monday night to win their eighth consecutive West Coast Conference title, one of the longest such streaks in college basketball history. Gonzaga has won 10 of the past 11 WCC titles, with Pepperdine’s win in 2000 the only break.
“League titles are hard,” Few said after Gonzaga (24-6, 13-1) finished one game ahead of Saint Mary’s. “They are two months in the making, and digging out road wins. Finding ways to win when Plan A and Plan B aren’t working.”
Everything was working for the Zags on Monday, as they shot 47 percent and made 13-of-26 3-pointers.
The Broncos (14-15, 6-8) were held to 38 percent shooting, were outrebounded 44-29 and saw their best player, guard Brody Angley, leave the game in the opening minutes with a concussion after being elbowed in the head by Gonzaga’s Abdullahi Kuso.
“It’s hard to play shorthanded, especially without having your only ballhandler on the floor,” Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating said.
Angley, who scored a career-high 28 points when Santa Clara lost in double overtime to Gonzaga last month, has a bit of memory loss, Keating said.
“He doesn’t remember where he’s at or who we played or what happened,” Keating said.
Freshman Steven Gray was 6-for-7 from 3-point range and scored 18 points for Gonzaga, while Matt Bouldin added 14 points and Micah Downs 10 as 12 Zags scored.
“He’s had practices like that where he doesn’t miss,” Few said of Gray.
“It was one of those nights,” Gray said. “Everyone has them.”
The Bulldogs had already clinched the top seed and a bye into the semifinals of this week’s conference tournament in San Diego.
Mitch Henke led Santa Clara with 13 points, while John Bryant had 10, eight below his average.
Gonzaga scored the first 12 points of the game over the first 5 minutes by harassing the Broncos into eight turnovers. The lead was 26-7 as the Zags hit 11 of their first 20 shots.
Gonzaga led 36-19 at halftime.
The second half started with a 24-6 run by Gonzaga, including four 3-pointers by Gray, that made it 60-25 lead with 14 minutes left.
Gonzaga has won seven straight games and appears to be peaking heading into the postseason.
“We are playing our best basketball right now,” Few said.
Gonzaga’s six losses were to Tennessee, Memphis, Washington State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Saint Mary’s, which were a combined 135-38 leading into Monday’s games.
This is the fifth time in the past eight seasons the Bulldogs have lost one or fewer games in the WCC.
Last season Santa Clara handed Gonzaga its first loss in the McCarthey Athletic Center after 39 consecutive wins dating to the opening in 2004. Gonzaga is 52-2 in the building, with its other loss coming to Washington State earlier this season.
It was Senior Night and the last home game for Gonzaga’s David Pendergraft and Kuso.