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WCC Tournament quarterfinal recap: Top four tested, but advance

The underdogs put up a fight but the favorites all won. An entertaining quarterfinal round sets up the ideal semis.

NCAA Basketball: West Coast Conference Tournament-Gonzaga vs Pacific Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterfinal 1: No. 3 BYU Cougars 89, No. 6 Loyola Marymount Lions 81
Quarterfinal 2: No. 4 Santa Clara Broncos 76, No. 5 San Francisco Dons 69
Quarterfinal 3: No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs 82, No. 9 Pacific Tigers 50
Quarterfinal 4: No. 2 Saint Mary’s Gaels 81, No. 10 Portland Pilots 58

Zags scare fans with flat first half

For the first 20 minutes the overwhelmingly pro-Gonzaga crowd at Orleans Arena had to be wondering just what had happened to their Zags. It’s one thing to lose at home to a quality BYU team, but to find yourself down 23-22 with three minutes to play in the first half against nine seed Pacific?

“It was a March grinder there at the start,” head coach Mark Few said.

Gonzaga scored 0.818 points per possession in the first half.

When Mark Few replaced his final rotation player, Zach Collins, with a bench player, Ryan Edwards, the Zags had scored 1.645 points per possession in the second half. That’s more than double their first half rate.

Senior shooting guard Jordan Mathews led the charge by scoring 20 of his season high 22 in the second half. He and the Zags needed some time, but they figured out how to break down the Tigers’ defense.

“They ran that zone,” Mathews said, “Killian [Tillie] found me a few times.”

Nigel Williams-Goss added 20 and Johnathan Williams pitched in 11. T.J. Wallace led the Tigers with 21.

Brownridge powers the Broncos

Four seed Santa Clara suffered a blow before their game with five seed San Francisco tipped off. Guard KJ Feagin (concussion protocol) was unable to suit up. The Sophomore missed the first 12 games of the season, and his Broncos stumbled to a 5-7 start.

“I look back to where we were when the season started and they’ve improved every step of the way,” head coach Herb Sendek said, “despite having to deal with one adversity after another, one injury after another.”

There’s a little bit more urgency in March than November, though, and senior Jared Brownridge (28 points) came through in the clutch.

Brownridge followed that three with a rebound that sent San Francisco into foul and stop the clock mode.

Cougars continue to confuse

Last time we saw BYU on the hardwood they were upsetting then No. 1 Gonzaga in Spokane. So they should have no problem against lowly LMU, right?

Well, the Cougars opened hot and hit four of their first five threes but then went ice cold. Six straight misses and a five minute scoreless drought let the Lions hang around. The Cougars have spent all season playing to the level of their opposition. Up next, a date with two seed Saint Mary’s on Monday, which means they’ll need to play like a top-25 squad if they want a shot in the semis.

Of note: sophomore Nick Emery passed 1,000 career points in the win. Fellow sophomore Eric Mika (25 points) reached double-figures scoring for the 33rd consecutive game, a streak which stretches back to his freshman season.

Saint Mary’s coasts past Pilots

Slow and steady Saint Mary’s didn’t hold Portland to single digits in the first half, like they did earlier this season, but the two seed Gaels didn’t have much trouble with 10 seed Portland.

Calvin Hermanson scored 21 for the Gaels and Jock Landale added 19. Emmett Naar ran the Gaels’ offense with 11 assists to just one turnover. Jazz Johnson led all scorers with 26 points.

In keeping with the trend of the day though, the Pilots didn’t go down without a fight. Portland led for nearly the first seven minutes. Mid-way through the second the Pilots went on a 6-0 run that brought them within six.

But the Gaels, having been ranked in the AP Top-25 every week this season, were just too much in the end.

Looking ahead

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 Santa Clara, Monday at 6 p.m. Pacific on ESPN.

No. 2 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 3 BYU, Monday at 8:30 p.m. Pacific on ESPN2.