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Gonzaga-Santa Clara Preview

AP - Sports

Two impressive wins last week not only helped Gonzaga return to the Top 25, but more importantly kept alive its chances of winning a 12th straight West Coast Conference regular-season title.

The 24th-ranked Bulldogs look for their fourth straight victory Thursday night when they take on Santa Clara, which has lost 13 in a row.

After a one-week absence, Gonzaga returned to the AP poll Monday following a pair of crucial home wins. The Bulldogs (20-4, 10-2) made things interesting in the WCC with a 73-59 victory over league-leading Saint Mary's last Thursday, handing the Gaels their first conference loss, before easily defeating fourth-place Loyola Marymount 78-59 on Saturday.

"That's a good sign. We've got to bottle it up and take it on the road now," coach Mark Few said before looking ahead to a two-game trip. "Last year we lost both games down at these places (Santa Clara and San Francisco), so we've got to bottle up this energy, toughness and efficiency and take it with us on the road."

Gonzaga shot 52.4 percent and held the Gaels and Lions to a combined 38.7 percent. Four players scored at least 13 points Saturday, with Kevin Pangos' 21 leading the way.

Pangos, who had 27 against Saint Mary's and went 10 of 13 beyond the arc in the two wins, was named conference player of the week.

The freshman, who leads Gonzaga with 13.9 points per game, is averaging 21.0 points in his last three contests after averaging 9.0 in the previous five.

The Bulldogs had little trouble in an 82-60 win over Santa Clara on Jan. 7. They shot 54.5 percent and had four players score in double figures, led by 17 off the bench from Sam Dower.

The second meeting between the two might be even easier for Gonzaga as the Broncos (8-17, 0-12) will again be without Kevin Foster, the conference's leading scorer.

Santa Clara announced Monday that Foster, who had missed the last seven games following a late January arrest for a DUI charge, was suspended for the remainder of the season.

The Broncos, who have lost a school-record 13 in a row, are back home after playing their last three games on the road. They are coming off an 82-67 loss to Saint Mary's on Saturday.

Denzel Johnson scored 17 points while Niyi Harrison added 12.

"We dealt with a lot of adversity in the very beginning, and certainly in the last three weeks it's changed and been even more adverse," coach Kerry Keating said. "That's hard for some of these guys to understand, so we have to play through it and when the dust settles hopefully we'll be able to gather ourselves and get ready for the last push."

While the Broncos have missed Foster, Johnson has played well in his absence. The freshman has started the last five games and is averaging 18.8 points in his last four.

Brandon Clark started a second straight game as Evan Roquemore, averaging 13.8 points, came off the bench while he continues to heal from a foot sprain. Roquemore finished with eight points and seven assists Saturday.

Behind Foster's 36 points, Santa Clara beat visiting Gonzaga 85-71 on Jan. 20, 2011 - its first home win in the series since 2001.

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