SANTA CLARA, California (Ticker) -- Ronny Turiaf responded to a rough game with his best effort and helped Gonzaga reclaim its throne.
Turiaf matched a career high with 29 points to power the third-ranked Bulldogs to an 84-71 victory over St. Mary's in the West Coast Conference championship game.
Gonzaga (27-2) will enter the NCAA Tournament on a 20-game winning streak and captured the WCC crown for the fifth time in six seasons. The Bulldogs lost to San Diego in last year's title game.
Turiaf was a major reason why Gonzaga needed a late rally to escape in Sunday's semifinals with a 63-62 triumph over Santa Clara, scoring only 10 points. But he had a pair of key baskets in the final minute of that contest and picked up right where he left off in front of a crowd that included NBA executives and scouts, most notably Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge.
"We caught him on an on night," St. Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "He struggled last night and we kind of laughed because we knew he would rebound with a good performance."
The Bulldogs led by as many as 14 points before St. Mary's (19-12) made a run, pulling within 70-66 on E.J. Rowland's two foul shots with just over five minutes left. Tony Skinner answered with a 3-pointer and Turiaf muscled his way to a three-point play for a 10-point margin with 4:10 to go.
Turiaf, who had a double-double by halftime, also finished with 14 rebounds. Gonzaga held a 37-28 edge on the glass to make a case for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
"I think (we sent) a loud message that we are a quality NCAA Tournament team and worthy of a high seed," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
WCC Player of the Year Blake Stepp scored 19 points, handed out six assists and made all eight free throws. Cory Violette added 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting as the Bulldogs shot 53 percent (29-of-55).
Stepp and Violette joined Turiaf on the all-tournament team along with Rowland and Santa Clara's Doron Perkins.
After taking a 39-29 lead into halftime, Gonzaga scored nine straight points to extend to 50-36 on Erroll Knight's two foul shots with 15:51 remaining. The Gaels never folded, cutting the deficit to 62-57 on a follow shot by Paul Marigney at the 9:06 mark.
"People don't understand how hard it is to go out there into these small gyms and get your opponents' best game all season," Few said. "Those are tough games to win."
Rowland and Frederic Adjiwanou each scored 16 points for St. Mary's, which was bidding for its first NCAA appearance since 1997. The Gaels have lost 17 straight to the Bulldogs.