March 10, 2008

WCC: Surprising San Diego claims NCAA bid

SAN DIEGO — Rob Jones and De'Jon Jackson keyed a huge second-half run for the San Diego Toreros, who stunned No. 20 Gonzaga 69-62 to win the West Coast Conference tournament championship game Monday night and clinch their first NCAA tournament berth since 2003.

Showing no effects from needing two overtimes to beat Saint Mary's on Sunday night, the scrappy Toreros (21-13) went on a 19-4 run in the second half to take control and give first-year coach Bill Grier a huge win against his old boss, Gonzaga's Mark Few.

USD had lost 13 straight to the Zags (25-7) since upsetting them in the 2003 tournament title game.

Holding a comfortable lead in the final minute, the Toreros put an emphatic stamp on the upset. Gyno Pomare had a fast-break slam dunk with 25 seconds left, then pumped his fists after making two free throws. Trumaine Johnson had another slam with 7.9 seconds and hung on the rim, drawing a technical foul.

The students then got their turn, rushing the court after the final buzzer and swarming at midcourt, delaying the trophy presentation ceremony for several minutes.

The Zags must now wait for an at-large invitation, which will be their 10th straight NCAA appearance. They were trying for their fifth straight league title and ninth in 10 years.

Jackson scored 16 points, Jones 15 and Pomare 14, along with 10 rebounds.

Jeremy Pargo had 22 for Gonzaga.

Gonzaga took a 43-38 lead with 13:33 left on Josh Heytvelt's one-handed shot from the key.

That's when the Toreros got hot, going on a run that Jones finished with two free throws for a 57-47 lead with 5:52 left.

The Toreros have won 12 of 14 games. Meanwhile, Gonzaga had its eight-game winning streak snapped.

USD had so much trouble with Gonzaga's defense early in the game that it committed three shot-clock violations in the first 5 1/2 minutes.

The Toreros stayed close, though, and outscored the Zags 14-6 during a 6:25 stretch to take a 30-27 halftime lead.




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