SANTA CLARA — Loyola Marymount, which has made a habit of turning the West Coast Conference tournament on its head, nearly left another top-seeded team dazed and confused in the first round Saturday.
The eighth-seeded Lions staggered Gonzaga by taking a 17-point lead in the second half, but they couldn't deliver a knockout. The Bulldogs rallied and pulled out a 79-78 victory on Matt Santangelo's three-point basket as time expired in overtime.
Santangelo's game-winner came after Loyola Marymount had taken a 78-76 lead on an eight-foot jump shot by Haywood Eaddy with five seconds left in overtime.
"In every league loss, I had a shot at the buzzer and I hadn't made any of them," said Santangelo, whose team won the WCC regular-season title with a 10-4 record. "I missed a lot of them. One was bound to go in."
Gonzaga (22-8) will play San Diego (14-13) in a semifinal game at 6 tonight.
Loyola Marymount (7-20), which lost twice to Gonzaga in conference play by an average of 27 points, was trying to upset a top-seeded team in the first round for the third time in four years. The Lions beat Santa Clara last season and in 1995.
After Loyola Marymount took its biggest lead, 51-34, three minutes into the second half, Gonzaga chipped away at the deficit behind forward Bakari Hendrix, who had game-high totals of 26 points and 14 rebounds.
Loyola Marymount was scoreless for the last 2:30 of regulation.
Gonzaga forced overtime after two three-point baskets by reserve guard Quentin Hall, the second one with 45 seconds left.
"My initial reaction is, I really feel for Loyola," Gonzaga Coach Dan Monson said. "I told my kids after the game that we finally won a game we didn't deserve to win. I give [Loyola Marymount] a lot of credit. That team played its heart out."