SAN DIEGO (AP)—This is exactly where Gonzaga expects to be at this time of the year—undefeated in the conference and getting ready for tournament time.
The 17th-ranked Bulldogs became the first West Coast Conference team to go undefeated in three conference seasons, beating San Diego 58-47 Saturday night.
“It was a grinder of a game, but to cap off a 14-0 season is a tremendous accomplishment,” said coach Mark Few, who coached the undefeated 2003-04 and 2005-06 Gonzaga teams in the conference.
Gonzaga (23-5, 14-0) won its 21st straight WCC game.
“It’s so satisfying,” guard Matt Bouldin said. “Not many people have done that. You get to put your name down in the record book and that’s special.”
Bouldin led Gonzaga with 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Jeremy Pargo finished with 12 points and Josh Heytvelt and Micah Downs each scored 11 for the Bulldogs, who already clinched their ninth straight regular-season conference title.
Few, in his 10th season as head coach, has a WCC record of 125-15 record.
“That’s a dang good team,” San Diego coach Bill Grier said. “You have to play darn near perfect to beat them.”
Grier would know after serving as an assistant coach at Gonzaga for 16 years, including the final eight seasons as Few’s top assistant, before taking over the Toreros’ job last season.
Gonzaga beat San Diego for the 24th time in 26 games since the 1999-2000 season. One of the two wins was in last year’s WCC Tournament final on San Diego’s home floor.
Gyno Pomare and De’Jon Jackson led San Diego (15-15, 6-8) with 12 points apiece.
“They have a lot of good players and if one guy is off, the other guys can pick them up,” said Pomare, a senior who played in his final home game.
The Bulldogs, who held San Diego to 37.2 percent shooting from the floor, have the No. 1 berth in the WCC Tournament and a bye into the semifinals next Sunday. Gonzaga hosts South Carolina Upstate in its final regular season game on Tuesday.
The loss dropped the Toreros into the No. 5 seed in the WCC Tournament and they will face Loyola Marymount in the first round on Friday.
Gonzaga trailed 15-10 with 10:05 left in the first half when the Bulldogs’ defense clamped down and held San Diego to one more field goal before the break. Gonzaga finished on a 16-3 run to take a 26-18 halftime lead. Pargo keyed the run with eight points, including a steal and a basket on consecutive San Diego possessions.
“In a game like that, you have to take the opponent whenever you can,” Pargo said. “We had some opportunities in the middle of the first half and we took advantage of them.”
The Bulldogs, who lead the nation in defensive field goal percentage, held the Toreros to 32 percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes.
“We’ve been playing good D all year,” Few said. “Our defensive field goal percentage has been No. 1 and that’s a great accomplishment by this group.”
Heytvelt hit a free throw and a jumper on the Bulldogs’ first two possessions of the second half for their biggest lead to that point at 29-18. Heytvelt also scored Gonzaga’s first three baskets of the game, including two 3-pointers.
San Diego cut the lead to 31-26 before the Bulldogs scored on six straight possessions to take a 46-31 lead with 10:46 remaining.
Downs hit consecutive 3-point shots, Bouldin converted a conventional 3-point play, Ira Brown made two free throws, Demetri Goodson hit a jumper, and Bouldin scored on a drive.
Matt Dorr sank a pair of 3-point shots as the Toreros outscored Gonzaga 10-2 over the next four minutes to make it 48-41. But San Diego scored only one more basket the rest of the game, on Danny Brown’s 3-pointer with 46.5 seconds remaining.