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Hot shooting leads Gonzaga to eighth straight WCC crown

Mar 4, 2008 - 7:36 AM SPOKANE, Washington (Ticker) -- Gonzaga clinched another West Coast Conference crown in emphatic fashion.

Freshman Steven Gray scored a season-high 18 points and Matt Bouldin added 14 and six assists as the 23rd-ranked Bulldogs cruised to an 88-54 victory over Santa Clara on Monday.

Gonzaga (24-6, 13-1 WCC) made 13-of-26 3-pointers, including 9-of-14 in the second half, en route to its sixth straight outright regular-season title. The Bulldogs have won at least a share of the title for eight straight seasons.

"I thought our team defense was excellent and our ball pressure was excellent, especially in the first half," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "We had another good offensive sequence where we took care of the ball and moved it really well. It obviously helps when guys step up and make threes."

Gray made 6-of-7 from the arc and Micah Downs chipped in 10 points off the bench for Gonzaga, which dominated from the opening tip.

Jeremy Pargo scored four points as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 12-0 lead just 5:25 into the contest and never looked back.

Josh Heytvelt's 3-pointer gave Gonzaga a 26-7 lead with under seven minutes to play in the first half. The Bulldogs held a 17-point lead at the break.

Gonzaga started the second half strong and, after Gray capped a 24-6 burst with back-to-back 3-pointers for a 60-25 bulge with 13:40 remaining, it cruised for the rest of the game. Downs' three-point play gave the Bulldogs their largest lead at 80-40 with 4:51 left.

The Broncos (14-15, 6-8) committed 18 turnovers and were outrebounded, 44-29, in the contest.

Saint Mary's (12-2), which would have won a share of the title with a Gonzaga loss, defeated Portland, 64-50, on Monday night and will receive a bye to the semifinals along with the Bulldogs when the conference tournament begins later in the week.

"I think we have momentum heading into the tournament," Few said. "We were able to come home and win the title outright, which we did. We didn't want to share it with anybody. I think these guys have improved week-by-week. We are playing out best basketball right now."

Mitch Henke scored 13 points and John Bryant added 10 and seven rebounds for the Broncos, who lost their second-leading scorer - Brody Angley - to a concussion early in the first half.

It was the fifth loss in its last seven games for Santa Clara, which finishes the season in fourth place of the WCC.