Winning the West Coast Conference is nothing new to Gonzaga’s current roster. Sharing it would be.
The 22nd-ranked Bulldogs look to win the WCC crown outright for the sixth straight season as they host Santa Clara in the teams’ regular season finale Monday.
Gonzaga has finished with the best record or tied for the best record in the WCC in 11 of the previous 14 seasons, including the last seven. The Bulldogs have claimed sole possession of the top spot nine times in that stretch, and haven’t shared the title since the 2001-02 season, when Pepperdine matched their 13-1 conference mark.
Gonzaga (23-6, 12-1) is in position for yet another league championship thanks to its 88-76 win over Saint Mary’s on Saturday, the first matchup between two ranked WCC teams in the league’s 55-year history. The Bulldogs shot 51.6 percent from the field and went 8-of-15 from 3-point range to break their tie atop the conference with the then-No. 25 Gaels.
A Gonzaga win or a Saint Mary’s loss to Portland on Monday would give the Bulldogs yet another outright WCC crown.
“We don’t want to share the WCC title,” said sophomore guard Matt Bouldin, who had a team-high 21 points, seven rebounds and four 3-pointers Saturday. “We want to keep this streak going.”
Saturday’s victory was Gonzaga’s 14th in 16 games. The Bulldogs’ only losses in that stretch are an 81-73 defeat at then-No. 1 Memphis on Jan. 26 and an 89-85 overtime loss at Saint Mary’s on Feb. 4.
The Bulldogs have won nine straight at home since falling to then-No. 8 Washington State on Dec. 5. Gonzaga is 51-3 at home since the McCarthey Athletic Center opened in 2004.
They’ll try to continue their success there when they face Santa Clara (14-14, 6-7) - the only WCC team to beat Gonzaga at home in the last four seasons.
The Broncos snapped a 13-game losing streak against the Bulldogs with an 84-73 win on Feb. 12 of last season. That was Gonzaga’s first home loss in 51 games, ending the nation’s longest home win streak.
“It is one of the toughest and most fun places to play,” Santa Clara senior forward Mitch Henke said. “We are definitely going to be fired up going in there. There is a great atmosphere in their gym and we need to come out hard from the start.”
Henke matched his season high with 21 points in the Broncos’ 64-58 loss at Portland on Saturday. He’s averaging 18.0 points and shooting 64.3 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from 3-point range in his last three games.
“I know that I am not the first option with (Santa Clara leading scorer John Bryant) inside, so I just try to take what comes to me,” said Henke, averaging 9.7 points on the season. “When I see some openings, I have to take those shots.”
Gonzaga won the first meeting with Santa Clara 87-82 in double overtime Feb. 2 to take a 37-30 advantage in the series. Bulldogs freshman reserve forward Austin Daye scored 13 of his team-high 22 points after regulation, while Brody Angley had a career-high 28 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Broncos.