Sam Dower saved the Gonzaga Bulldogs Wednesday night, draining a 3-pointer with two seconds left to lift the Zags to a 54-52 win over the Santa Clara Broncos at the Leavey Center.
The Broncos (10-13, 3-7 West Coast Conference) took the lead with 28 seconds remaining on a jumper by Brandon Clark after trailing by 10 points with 4:10 to go.
Gonzaga (19-3, 9-1) instead picked up its fifth straight win while sending Santa Clara to its fifth straight defeat.
Defense was the rule of the day as neither team shot well. The Broncos rallied late in the first half to grab a lead at the break. Gerard Coleman made two free throws with 5:41 left in the half to put the Zags up 18-14 and it would be more than 2½ minutes before anyone else would figure out the whole “ball through the iron circle” thing.
Evan Roquemore canned a 3-pointer with 3:05 remaining before halftime and back-to-back baskets by Nate Kratch, the second one part of a three-point play, put Santa Clara up 22-20 at the break.
The Broncos then scored the first five points of the second half, going up by seven on Jalen Richard’s 3-pointer 1:47 into the half.
With Santa Clara up 31-24, Gonzaga ran off 11 straight points to take a 35-31 lead when Gary Bell Jr. connected from deep with 11:57 remaining.
The Bulldogs eventually built their lead to 49-39 on a pair of free throws by Dower with 4:10 left before the Broncos made a final charge. Roquemore’s 3-pointer with 3:47 to go made it 49-42 and he made the free throw to complete a four-point play after he was fouled by Dower.
Clark’s layup with 3:08 to go made it 49-45 and Clark then hit a jumper to make it 49-47 at the 2:08 mark. Bell hit a pair of free throws to put Gonzaga up 51-47 with 1:53 left. Roquemore hit a 3-ball with 1:23 to go that made it 51-50, setting the stage for Clark’s go-ahead jumper and Dower’s game-winning 3 for Gonzaga.
Bell led the Bulldogs with 15 points. Dower had 13 and Przemek Karnowski finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots. Kevin Pangos handed out four assists.
Roquemore had 15 points for the Broncos and Clark tossed in 12. Yannick Atanga led the way with seven rebounds.
Gonzaga was 16-for-46 (34.8 percent) overall, 5-for-12 (41.7 percent) from 3-point range and 17-for-19 (89.5 percent) from the line. Santa Clara was 18-for-50 (36 percent), 5-for-18 (27.8 percent) and 11-for-12 (91.7 percent).
The Bulldogs had a slight edge on the glass, 33-32, and each team committed 13 turnovers.
Santa Clara remains at home Saturday, hosting Portland at 7 p.m.