Las Vegas, NV (SportsNetwork.com) - The West Coast Conference Tournament will conclude Tuesday and a champion will be crowned after the second-seeded BYU Cougars and the seventh-ranked and top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs do battle at Orleans Arena.
The winner will receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
BYU received a scare from Santa Clara in the quarterfinal round of the tournament, and needed a Tyler Haws' game-winning jumper with time winding down to lift the team to victory. That wasn't the case Monday, as the Cougars sailed past Portland to earn a trip to the finals with an 84-70 victory.
Gonzaga advanced to the championship bout after picking up a relatively easy 79-61 victory over Pepperdine in the semifinal round on Monday. The Bulldogs are seeking their 14th WCC title, and have made an appearance in the conference final in 18 consecutive seasons.
BYU and Gonzaga split the regular season series, with each team winning on the road. Gonzaga took an 87-80 decision late in December in Provo, Utah, but then BYU turned the tables against the Zags in the regular-season finale with a narrow 73-70 victory over the Bulldogs to hand Gonzaga its only conference loss.
It was another offensive display for BYU Monday night against the Pilots, which was highlighted by not only a 55.4 shooting percentage for the Cougars, but Kyle Collinsworth's sixth triple-double of the season. His 13-point, 14- rebound and 11-assists outing extended his single-season record of most triple-doubles in college basketball history, but it also tied him with Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Anderson for most collegiate career triple- doubles with six all-time. Chase Fischer added 24 points to lead the team in the win, while Tyler Haws chipped in 18 and Skyler Halford added 10 off the bench.
Collinsworth entered the semifinal match on Monday second on the team in scoring (13.6 ppg) behind Haws (22.2 ppg to lead the conference), but he was the team's leading rebounder (8.6 rpg) and passer (171 assists). The last triple-double the junior point guard recorded was back on Feb. 7 against Loyola Marymount. Now on an eight-game win streak with the victory over the Bulldogs in the regular-season finale, BYU will be looking to end a run of two consecutive Gonzaga WCC titles. In the win over the Zags in Spokane just a little over a week ago, Collinsworth netted 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds to pace the team. Halford added 14 points, Fischer scored 13 and Haws recorded 10 points for the Cougars.
Gonzaga owns an immaculate 46-15 all-time record in the West Coast Conference Tournament, which was aided by the team's win on Monday in convincing fashion. The Bulldogs connected on 52.5 percent of their field-goal tries from the floor in the contest, and were led by Byron Wesley's 25-point effort. Kyle Wiltjer scored 17 points with nine rebounds, and Przemek Karnowski added 13 points with six boards. Gonzaga is seeking its third consecutive WCC title, and if the team wins its 14th league championship, it will give the Bulldogs 11 more than any other current league member.
Wiltjer entered the semifinal match against Pepperdine leading the team in scoring with 16.6 ppg on 53.3 percent shooting from the field. Kevin Pangos followed with 11.6 ppg, and Karnowski (10.9 ppg) and Wesley (10.6 ppg) rounded out a group of double-digit scorers for the Zags headed into Monday's clash. Gonzaga will be seeking redemption for its regular-season finale loss to BYU, which was the only conference loss of the season for the Bulldogs. In that game, Wesley led the charge with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Domantas Sabonis added 12 and eight rebounds off the bench in the ultimate three-point defeat.