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Gonzaga 75, BYU 64

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LAS VEGAS — Forward Sam Dower Jr. led Gonzaga with 20 points and 13 rebounds in a 75-64 victory over BYU on Tuesday night in the championship game of the West Coast Conference tournament.

The top-seeded Bulldogs (28-6) advance to the NCAA tournament for the 16th consecutive year after winning thet WCC tourney for the second straight season. The second-seeded Cougars (23-11) also expect to land an invitation to a national tournament.

Gonzaga, dominant in the first half, held off a late charge by the Cougars. BYU drew no closer than eight points thanks in part to clutch free-throwing shooting late in the game by Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos.

Guard Gary Bell Jr. scored 14 points for the Bulldogs in their 17th consecutive title-game appearance. Pangos added 11.

Guard Tyler Haws, the WCC scoring leader, led the Cougars with 24 points. Backcourt partner Chris Collinsworth added 13.

The Bulldogs shot 52.1 percent from the field and held BYU to 35.6 percent. Gonzaga began the game ranked fourth in the nation in field-goal shooting percentage at 49.7.

Dower missed his first free throw after making all 23 foul shots in Gonzaga’s two other tournament games. The 23 made free throws was a tournament record, but Dower went 0 for 3 at the line in the title game.

Gonzaga dominated the opening half. The Bulldogs moved the ball superbly, piling up 11 assists on their first 17 baskets, which required just 26 shots. The sellout crowd of 7,898, consisting largely of Gonzaga fans, roared its approval.

BYU had more turnovers (six) than baskets (four) after 9 1/2 minutes, and Gonzaga bolted to a 25-9 lead. The Bulldogs led 44-27 at the half after shooting 61.3 percent from the field and holding the Cougars to 33.3 percent.

Dower had 14 points and seven rebounds by halftime.

NOTES: BYU has no seniors, but a few Cougars would be seniors or graduates if they had not gone on two-year Mormon missions. Church mission years do not count against collegiate eligibility. … BYU coach Dave Rose played collegiately at Houston on the “Phi Jamma Slamma” team that featured future NBA stars Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. Houston, ranked No. 1, lost to coach Jim Valvano’s North Carolina State squad in the 1983 NCAA title game. … Rose, a cancer survivor, has participated in Gonzaga coach Mark Few’s annual Coaches vs. Cancer fund-raising event in Spokane. Since 2002, the Spokane events have raised more than $6 million.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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