LAS VEGAS — As usual, Gonzaga is back in the West Coast Conference tournament championship game.
After pounding No. 4 seed Pepperdine, 79-61, Monday night in the WCC tournament semifinals at Orleans Arena, the top-seeded Zags advanced to the title tilt for the 18th consecutive year.
Tuesday (7 p.m., MDT, ESPN) Gonzaga will meet the winner of the late semifinal game between No. 2 BYU and No. 6 Portland.
Zags forward Byron Wesley said after the game he wanted the Cougars to beat the Pilots so Gonzaga could avenge its only WCC loss of the season — a 73-70 setback to BYU at The Kennel on Senior Night Feb. 28. It snapped Gonzaga's 41-game homecourt winning streak.
“Hopefully BYU wins so we can redeem ourselves,” Wesley said.
The Zags had just a two-point lead against Pepperdine at halftime before pulling away from the Waves in the second half.
Wesley (10 of 13), Kyle Wiltjer (7 of 12) and Przemek Karnowski (6 of 7) combined to go 24 of 32 from the field and score 55 points. As a team, the Zags shot 58 percent in the second half.
PAYNE MOVING ON: Loyola Marymount guard Evan Payne announced Monday that he is transferring. Payne, a sophomore, averaged 18.1 points per game this season.
BYU AND THE BUBBLE: ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan wrote that BYU remains on the bubble after the Cougars beat Santa Clara Saturday night.
“The Cougars are still on the bubble after Saturday night's WCC quarterfinals win over Santa Clara, because Santa Clara — like Portland, BYU's surprise semifinal opponents — can only hurt you. But being on the right side of the bubble still marks a drastic shift from where the Cougars were before that monstrous win at Gonzaga last Saturday. As we said Friday: If we were on the committee, we'd want to see BYU get in. They're talented, they're incredibly fun to watch, their per-possession and advanced analytical numbers are great, and all of their eight losses came by single digits, or in overtime, or both. Could BYU lose to Portland and still get in? We hope so. Are we sure? Not even a little bit. Best to avoid that mess entirely, hmm?”
‘FIGHTING FOR OUR LIVES’: Since falling at Pepperdine on Feb. 5, every game has been a must-win situation for BYU.
“We still have a lot to prove. Every game, we’re fighting for our lives,” said guard Tyler Haws. “I made a comment a month ago that our tournament already started. That’s kind of our mindset right now. We’re just focused on winning that next game and leaving it all out on the floor.”
HAWS NAMED A JERRY WEST FINALIST: The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Monday that Haws is one of five finalists for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award.
Haws, a native of Alpine, Utah, has led the Cougars to a 24-8 record and is currently third in the country in scoring at 22.2 points per game.
The other finalists are Jerian Grant of Notre Dame; D’Angelo Russell of Ohio State, Buddy Hield of Oklahoma; and Ron Baker of Wichita State.