Gonzaga opened up a 16 point lead in the first ten minutes before San Francisco could score a point. Zach Gourde opened things up with a nifty move to the bucket and Gonzaga never looked back.
The Bulldog defense once again contained and frustrated Dons ace Darrell Tucker and created several turnovers while limiting USF to one shot and out.
The Dons finally got it going but it was too little too late. Cory Violette was having yet another strong game and Anthony Reason was scrapping inside. But it would be Kyle Bankhead who would take a Dickau assist and pull up for a two-pointer as the halftime buzzer sounded.
The second half was a sloppily played affair with errant passes and ill-advised shots. The Dons would manage to cut the deficit to nine a few times but every time they did the Zags responded by pushing the lead to ten or eleven.
Dan Dickau had a steady game of 17 points and killed any momentum the Dons might've had with key layups, treys and a fallaway jumper.
The SportsCenter highlight of the night was an Anthony Reason tomahawk jam on a slashing drive from the wing. On the strength of Cory's game-high 18 points and solid defense by the entire team, Gonzaga let the clock wind down with a 16 point victory.
It was not a well-played game but Gonzaga grinded it out to improve to 25-3 and traveled across the Bay Bridge to take on the much-improved Gaels of St. Mary's the following night.
The Gaels came to play. It was Senior Night in Moraga and St. Mary's was looking to upset the #8 Zags. The score was 7-0 in favor of the hometeam before Cory Violette scored two buckets in a row. Then it was 7-7 and the Gaels showed some moxey by regaining the lead everytime Gonzaga tied it.
Finally, a Dan Dickau trey put the Bulldogs ahead, but St. Mary's continued to tie it on a few more occasions before Gonzaga pulled out to 5 and 7 point leads. Big men Cory Violette, Zach Gourde and Ronny Turiaf were well on their ways to scoring double figures.
Ahead by 7 with only a handful of seconds remaining in the 1st-half, St. Mary's missed a shot and Germayne Forbes grabbed the rebound. Quickly, he pushed it upcourt and fed it to Turiaf who was forced to toss up a wild shot. The ball banged off the back of the rim, bounced back into the lane where Anthony Reason flew it, grabbed it and tomahawk jammed it home fractions before the buzzer. If only this game was on TV, Anthony would have his second straight SportsCenter Highlight.
Gonzaga managed to hold St. Mary's at bay throughout the 2nd-half. The Gaels stayed within 10 points, thanks in part to 20 turnovers by the Zags. But GU was owning the boards by 20 and the lead oh so slowly widened.
Turiaf had another double-double and Dan Dickau had a workman-like 17 points to compliment Zach, Cory, Anthony and Alex Hernandez.
The Zags would win by 19 when Brian Michaelson tipped in a last second miss, and the 2001-2002 edition of the Gonzaga University Bulldogs would accomplish what no other GU team ever has: 26 wins in the regular season.
Gonzaga shares the WCC regular season Championship with the Pepperdine Waves. This is the fourth championship in five years for the Zags. The coin toss to determine the #1 and #2 seeds in the WCC Tournament went to Pepperdine, so Gonzaga will play #7 seed Loyola-Marymount in the 1st round in a noon game in Jenny Craig Pavilion on Saturday, March 2nd.