SANTA CLARA, California (Ticker) -- Fourth-ranked Gonzaga's chances for a top seed in the NCAA tournament were in serious jeopardy until Ronny Turiaf stepped up.
Turiaf scored the go-ahead basket with 5.1 seconds remaining as the Bulldogs advanced to the championship game of the West Coast Conference tournament with a thrilling 63-62 victory over Santa Clara.
The Bulldogs (26-2) extended their school-record winning streak to 19 games but never led until Blake Stepp hit a long 3-pointer with 1:40 remaining to make it 59-58. After the lead changed five times Turiaf got by a pair of defenders to grab the rebound and gave Gonzaga the lead for good.
Turiaf had just 10 points, five below his season average. But he scored twice on putbacks down the stretch as Gonzaga kept alive its chances for a top seed.
"He'd been frustrated," Bulldogs coach Mark Few said. "It was a very physical game inside. To his credit, he stayed with it and hit the difficult shots when he needed to."
"I would have gotten it if he would have missed and we would have scored," Gonzaga center Cory Violette added.
They also used their experience to overcome a 3-of-13 shooting from Turiaf and a 3-of-10 showing from Stepp.
"When Gonzaga had to wrap it up, they did," Broncos coach Dick Davey said. "They are a more experienced team. They have done this before."
Santa Clara (15-16), which lost to the Bulldogs in the 1999 and 2001 championship games, had a loud home crowd on its side and a 51-42 lead with 9:25 remaining. The Broncos had one more chance for the win but Kyle Bailey missed a 3-pointer as time expired.
The Bulldogs, who lost in the championship game last season to San Diego, will face St. Mary's in Monday's title game.
"I knew it was going to be like that," Violette said. "We all expected a good game. We never doubted we would win but it was getting pretty intense."
Doron Perkins led Santa Clara with 26 points. He made 5-of-11 3-pointers but missed one with time winding down on the shot clock that would have given the Broncos a 61-56 lead.
Perkins had a pair of 3-pointers as Santa Clara opened the second half on a 14-4 run. The Broncos had led by as many as 11 in the first half before settling for a 29-26 lead at halftime but Perkins' big 3-pointer prompted chants of "Overrated, Overrated" from the student section.
"We faced an inspired Santa Clara team, fighting for an NCAA tournament bid on their home floor," Few said. "They showed great courage and effort but we stayed with it and were able to keep our composure at the end."