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March 05, 2004|Rob Fernas

At Leavey Center,

Santa Clara


Portland (11-16) vs. Loyola Marymount (14-13), 6, KXLU (88.9 FM) -- Loyola Marymount hopes the third time is a charm. Portland swept the Lions in the regular season, winning, 77-68, on Jan. 12 at Gersten Pavilion and 74-59 on Feb. 5 at Portland. The Pilots feature a strong group of guards, led by sophomore Pooh Jeter, who averages 16.5 points. The defense-minded Lions rely on senior forward Sherman Gay, who leads WCC players with 51 blocks, and junior guard Charles Brown, the conference leader in steals. Loyola Marymount defeated Portland in the first round of the WCC tournament last season, 65-63.

Santa Clara (14-15) vs. San Diego (4-25), approximately 8:30 -- Defending tournament champion San Diego has lost six in a row and is 0-18 in games away from home. One of the few bright spots for the Toreros has been the play of forward Brice Vourang, the WCC newcomer of the year. The junior, a transfer from East Oklahoma Junior College, is averaging 17.3 points and 6.8 rebounds. Santa Clara has the advantage of playing on its home court, but the Broncos must overcome the losses of center and leading rebounder Jim Howell (broken foot) and backup guard Brandon Rohe (back injury).



Pepperdine (14-15) -- The third-seeded Waves have a first-round bye and will play the Portland-Loyola Marymount winner in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Sophomore center Derick Grubb is questionable for the tournament because of a back injury that sidelined him for two games last week, forcing Pepperdine to play a smaller lineup. Junior forwards Glen McGowan, the WCC scoring leader with a 17.8 average, and Yakhouba Diawara have forged a strong second-half showing by Pepperdine. The Waves have plenty of offensive weapons, but defensive lapses have cost them in losses. They had won five in succession before falling in Sunday's shootout at Saint Mary's, 104-95.

San Francisco (17-13) -- The fourth-seeded Dons will play the Santa Clara-San Diego winner in the quarterfinals at approximately 8:30 p.m. San Francisco has battled inconsistency. But with Santa Clara and San Diego reeling, the Dons should be able to reach the semifinals. Forwards Tyrone Riley and James Bayless lead San Francisco, the only upper-division WCC team that did not have a player chosen to the all-conference team.



Saint Mary's (18-11) -- The Gaels took another step in their third season under former Pepperdine assistant Randy Bennett, tying Pepperdine for second place in the WCC and earning the tournament's No. 2 seeding with a victory Sunday over the Waves. Junior guard Paul Marigney had a career-best 40 points in that game and leads Saint Mary's with a 16-point average, after sitting out last season and part of the 2001-02 season while recovering from a torn knee ligament. Sophomore forward Daniel Kickert is the Gaels' other all-conference player. The game starts at 6 p.m.

Gonzaga (25-2) -- Talent, size, leadership, depth -- top-seeded Gonzaga seemingly has it all. The fourth-ranked Bulldogs don't need to win the WCC tournament title to earn an NCAA tournament berth. But it would take a huge effort and probably an off night by Gonzaga for one of the challengers to pull an upset. The Bulldogs, who have byes through the first two rounds, need only two victories to extend their winning streak to 20 and claim the WCC tournament title for the fifth time in six years. ESPN will televise Gonzaga's semifinal game Sunday and Monday's final, both starting at 9 p.m.

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