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Woods’ Work Keeps Toreros in Tournament : College basketball: USD defeats Gonzaga, 72-62, with help from forward’s 23 points. Woods is selected to All-WCC first time, and now ranks top active player on tournament career scoring list.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kelvin Woods takes a workmanlike approach to most of this accolade stuff. And the past 48 hours have brought a lot of it.

Friday, on the eve of the West Coast Conference basketball tournament, Woods was the lone University of San Diego player named to All-WCC first team.

With his first basket Saturday morning, minutes into USD’s first-round 72- 62 victory over Gonzaga, the 6-5 junior forward became the tournament’s career scoring leader among active players.

By the time Woods scored his 20th point with 11:06 left, USD had built a 17-point lead and had all but wrapped up the victory, enabling the Toreros (17-11) to advance to a semifinal game against St. Mary’s tonight at 7:30.

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USD never trailed, scoring the first seven points. It extended a five-point lead to 15 with an 11-1 run to start the second half. Reed Watson’s reverse layup with 10:45 left gave USD a 19-point lead, 50-31. From there, Gonzaga (14-14) never got closer than the final margin, losing for the fifth time in five tournament games.

USD, the No. 3-seeded team, evened its five-year tournament record at 3-3. The Toreros, which had lost their final four regular-season games, must win the tournament to advance to the NCAA tournament.

Woods supplied the push.

He finished with 23 points--one shy of his career high--and eight rebounds. Both were game highs. He made seven of 11 from the field, nine of 10 from the free-throw line. He was the biggest factor in USD’s biggest game of the season. You’ll never hear that kind of talk from him, though.

Woods is the kind of guy who has to be informed of what he’s just accomplished. Otherwise, he would never know.

He is frequently asked if it’s strange playing forward, when at 6-5, he is clearly undersized.

“Not really,” Woods said. “I always play against guys taller than me.”

Not particularly swift either, Woods is like a tree in a windstorm. He’s sturdy but sways a lot.

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“He’s crafty,” USD Coach Hank Egan said. “He’s got great moves and pump fakes.”

Anthony Thomas he is not.

Thomas, the Toreros’ leading scorer who had 15 points and six rebounds against Gonzaga, is jack-rabbit quick with a leaping ability to match. Thomas thrives on fast breaks and power slams. Woods can’t recall his last dunk.

After his first two seasons, Woods had a .653 career free-throw percentage. This season, he has made 80.2%. With his 23 points Saturday, he moved up a notch to 19th on the all-time Torero scoring list.

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“The play of Kelvin Woods down low was certainly the key in this ballgame,” Gonzaga Coach Dan Fitzgerald said.

Woods, with 12, had eight more points than any other Torero in the first half. USD raced to a 7-0 lead as Gonzaga didn’t score until 15:54. The Bulldogs managed to tie it twice, 18-18 and 20-20, but each time USD re-gained the lead.

The Toreros led 31-26 at the half, which was a testament to their defensive play. USD, the WCC’s top-shooting team, made only 37% in the first half, compared to Gonzaga’s 42%.

All nine Toreros who took shots in the first half made either half of them or none. Point guard Wayman Strickland was the coldest, missing all five of his shots.

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USD made 11 of 21 (52.4%) in the second half to finish at 43.7%. That marked only the second time this season USD has won while shooting less than 50%.

USD had defeated Gonzaga, 89-80, in Spokane during the regular season. Five days later, Gonzaga returned the favor in San Diego, 70-64, as the Toreros shot only 39%.

“The last couple of games, we’ve been rushing our shots and haven’t been taking good percentage shots,” Woods said. “Today, we settled down a bit, especially in the second half.”

That appeared to be the case, but USD’s percentage was still lower than its cumulative 45% during its recent four-game losing streak.

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“I thought the key today was, we were able to sustain our defense,” Egan said.

USD did precisely that in the first 10:14 of the second half when the Toreros limited Gonzaga to one field goal. The Bulldogs also committed 21 turnovers to only 12 for USD.

“They probably think they turned the ball over a lot,” Egan said. “And we probably think it was our defense.”

Gonzaga’s Jarrod Davis, the WCC’s second-leading scorer, led Gonzaga with 18 points, one under his average. Davis injured his left shoulder Friday in practice, but said the injury was not a factor. Davis made seven of 16 from the floor.

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Strickland scored seven of his nine points in the second half to finish third behind Woods and Thomas. Center Dondi Bell had seven rebounds and two blocked shots.

Woods has 60 points in three tournament games, more than any other active WCC player.

Torero Notes

XTRA Radio will broadcast tonight’s semifinal game between USD and St. Mary’s live at 7:30 p.m. . . . The Toreros split the season series with St. Mary’s. USD lost the most recent game, 90-88 in double overtime.

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