The Gonzaga Bulldogs have reeled off lopsided wins against Portland, Tulsa and San Diego on their quest to a perfect WCC season of 14-0 and 27-2 overall. The Zags now stand at 13-0 and 24-2. With only Santa Clara standing in their way, the #4 ranked Bulldogs are well-positioned to achieve their goals as the final game will be in an emotion-filled and energy-charged Kennel, with 75 former Zags looking on as this will be the final game played in the old Kennel. Next season the Zags will open the new Kennel next door.
Below are but a few highlights from Gonzaga's blowout win over San Diego. The score: 97-78.
Erroll Knight steals a pass and the fast break is on, resulting in a Ronny Turiaf slam dunk.
Ronny Turiaf powers above San Diego's top scorer Brandon Gay.
The University of San Diego Toreros came charging into Spokane, hoping to upset the 4th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs in their second-to-last game in their beloved home, the Kennel. It wasn't a smooth ride for the Zags, but balanced efforts from the entire team equaled a lasso large enough to tame the Toreros. Gonzaga prevailed, 97-78, to remain undefeated in West Coast Conference action.
A Kennel painted white and a national audience through ESPN2 witnessed a poor showing from the Bulldogs early in the half. San Diego scorched the Zags, hitting the first 4 of their 5 field goal attempts, and shot 6-10 of their three-pointers. Gonzaga's inability to stop the Toreros and sloppy play on the offensive end helped give San Diego the early lead, at one point by as many as five points. Undermanned, San Diego's Brandon Gay became their main offensive weapon, scoring ten early points. After numerous turnovers due to wild passes, the Zags began to click offensively and gained the lead. Cory Violette was a force in the low post, muscling his way through defenders to tally 14 first-half points. The Toreros, heavy underdogs, continued to make it a bumpy road for the Zags and went into the locker room at half-time trailing by only 11 points, 40-29.
Blake Stepp, after being held scoreless in the first half, exploded onto the scene. One might have thought his confidence to be shaken after missing all of his attempts from beyond the arc earlier, but he proved that false. Stepp sank eight treys, one behind the single-game record for Gonzaga, including five in the first 8 minutes. Stepp also surpassed former Zag Ritchie Frahm to claim the Gonzaga career record for three-pointers made at 281. Stepp finished with an All-American line of 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. The Kennel had remained relatively quiet for most of the night when the Zags had struggled, but Stepp's play and some eye-popping playmaking got them to their feet. With determined play from all, Gonzaga proved too deep for San Diego. Violette, Gonzaga's backbone in the first half, finished the evening with 20 points and 8 boards as the Bulldogs outscored the Toreros in the paint 32-6. Freshman point guard Derek Raivio played an impressive game, scoring a career-high 15 points; Ronny Turiaf posted 16 points and Sean Mallon grabbed 7 boards.
Gonzaga's next contest, versus Santa Clara on Saturday, will be their last ever in the Martin Center, as they prepare to move into the neighboring new arena for the 2004-2005 season. Zag fans are encouraged to wear red as they bid farewell to a fabulous group of five seniors and a storied home.