LAS VEGAS — For the first time in school history, Gonzaga stepped on the floor as the top-ranked team in the country.
Thanks to a second-half surge Saturday night in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament, it will step on the floor Monday night in the championship game of the event as the nation’s No. 1 team for a second straight week.
Elias Harris had 21 points and eight rebounds to lead Gonzaga over Loyola Marymount 66-48.
Bidding for a top seed in the NCAA tournament, the Bulldogs (30-2) advanced to play for the league championship against the winner of Saturday’s late semifinal between Saint Mary’s and San Diego.
Challenged in the first half by a team that went 1-15 in WCC play this season, Gonzaga turned up the defensive intensity and opened the second half on a 19-5 run to seize momentum.
Though it needed a last-second basket by Sam Dower to take a 27-26 lead into halftime, Gonzaga outscored the Lions 39-22 in the second half.
Kevin Pangos added 14 points and Kelly Olynyk had eight points and eight rebounds for the Zags.
Anthony Ireland led Loyola Marymount (11-23) with 19 points.
“LMU is a bunch of fighters," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “They are tough and reflect the personality of their coach. I thought we played excellent defense all night, especially in the second half. We finally got our offense going in the second half."
After shooting 40 percent (eight of 20) from the field in the first half, including four of 10 from beyond the arc, the Lions shot a dismal seven of 29 (24.1 percent) from the field in the second. LMU was an abysmal one of 10 from 3-point range.
Conversely, the Zags turned it around after a horrendous first half — during which they went nine of 24 from the field and one of seven on 3s — and was a blistering 11 of 22 from the floor.
“We played with more emotion in the second half," Harris said. “We came out flat in the beginning and knew that we had to change that."
Also on Saturday:
No. 3 Duke 69
North Carolina 53
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Seth Curry hit his first seven shots during Duke’s torrid start, helping the Blue Devils jump to a big lead and beat rival North Carolina.
No. 4 Kansas 58
WACO, Texas — Pierre Jackson had 28 points and 10 assists as Baylor finished the regular season with a victory that kept Kansas from winning the outright Big 12 title.
No. 5 Georgetown 61
No. 17 Syracuse 39
WASHINGTON — Georgetown emphatically ended its Big East rivalry against Syracuse, wrapping up the regular-season title by holding the Orange to the lowest scoring output of their time in the conference.
No. 6 Miami 62
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Down to its third try and last chance, Miami came through. Kenny Kadji scored a season-high 23 points to help the Hurricanes win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship outright by beating Clemson.
No. 8 Louisville 73
No. 24 Notre Dame 57
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Gorgui Dieng had 20 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks to help Louisville earn a share of the Big East Conference title with a victory over Notre Dame.
No. 13 Oklahoma State 76
No. 9 Kansas State 70
STILLWATER, Okla. — Le’Bryan Nash scored 24 points, Marcus Smart added 21 and Oklahoma State beat Kansas State.
No. 11 Florida 57
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Julius Mays’ two free throws with 9.4 seconds remaining capped Kentucky’s comeback from a seven-point deficit for a victory over Florida that boosted its NCAA tournament prospects.
Air Force 89
No. 12 New Mexico 88
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Todd Fletcher hit a 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds remaining to lift Air Force over New Mexico.
No. 15 Marquette 69
St. John’s 67
NEW YORK — Vander Blue’s driving layup dropped through as the overtime buzzer sounded, giving Marquette a victory over St. John’s and a share of the Big East regular-season championship, its first title since joining the conference in 2005-06.
No. 16 Saint Louis 78
La Salle 54
ST. LOUIS — Dwayne Evans had 16 points and 17 rebounds, and Saint Louis hit 17 of its 20 shots in the second half to clinch a share of the Atlantic 10 title with a victory over La Salle.
No. 20 Pittsburgh 81
ROSEMONT, Ill. — J.J. Moore scored 21 points off the bench and Pittsburgh shot a school-record 72 percent to beat DePaul in the Panthers’ last Big East regular-season game.
No. 25 Memphis 86
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Joe Jackson had 17 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds to help Memphis complete an undefeated season in Conference USA with a victory over UAB.