SANTA CLARA -- Gonzaga was one shot better than Santa Clara on Wednesday night.

Forward Sam Dower's 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left was the difference, lifting the resourceful Zags to a 54-52 victory before an announced crowd of 4,721 at the Leavey Center.

Dower's basket from the top of the key capped a wayward final possession for the Bulldogs, who defeated Santa Clara for the seventh consecutive time.

"I can't say it was a lucky shot because Sam has hit those before," SCU coach Kerry Keating said. "But it wasn't the shot they were trying to get."

The Broncos trailed by 10 points with five minutes remaining, but guards Brandon Clark and Evan Roquemore led a frenetic rally down the stretch.

SCU took the lead with 28.6 seconds left on Clark's short floater. After Dower drained the 3-pointer, the Broncos called timeout.

Guard Jared Brownridge's 40-footer at the buzzer -- he had a clean look from the right side -- was short.

"We were fortunate to be in that position," Keating said. "We showed a lot of composure, maybe grew up a little bit."

Gary Bell Jr. led Gonzaga with 15 points, all but two coming in the second half. Dower scored 13 points.

Roquemore (15 points) was the only SCU player to shoot better than 50 percent from the field. Clark, the team's leading scorer, made just 5 of 16 shots and finished with 12 points.

It was the fifth victory in a row for the Zags (19-3, 9-1 West Coast Conference), who have a one-game lead in the loss column over Saint Mary's.


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The Broncos (10-13, 3-7) have lost five in a row overall and are effectively tied with Pacific and Loyola Marymount in a last-place logjam in the WCC.

"I feel like we're getting better, and that's the focus of our team right now," Keating said. "We've put ourselves in position to be a middling team."

SCU appeared to take control early in the second half. Jalen Richard buried a 3-pointer from the left wing and Brownridge sliced through the defense for a layup that gave the Broncos a 31-24 advantage.

The Zags called timeout to regroup and became the aggressor when play resumed. By the time Bell hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 12 minutes left, the momentum had shifted: Gonzaga was on an 11-0 run, and SCU was the team in need of a timeout.

The stoppage helped: Clark scored on consecutive possessions and Roquemore converted a nifty drive to pull SCU within 38-37.

The Zags didn't flinch. Bell hit two more 3-pointers -- on successive possessions, no less -- to extend the lead to 44-37. The margin reached 10 points on Dower's free throws with five minutes remaining.

Roquemore and Clark brought Santa Clara back, combining for the team's final 13 points.

Contact Jon Wilner at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.

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