Marquise Carter scored 18 points, including seven late free throws, and Demetri Goodson made a key steal to help Gonzaga hang on for a wild 71-67 victory Sunday night over San Francisco in the West Coast Conference tournament semifinals.
The Bulldogs' win sets up a Monday finals rematch with Saint Mary's, who pulled off the 81-62 upset of Gonzaga in last year's WCC championship game.
"When you put the ball in Marquise's hands, that's been a good thing all year for us down the stretch," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the clutch free throws.
Overall, the Bulldogs made 24 free throws, four more than San Francisco (17-14).
The Dons, the league's No. 3 seed, trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half but kept chipping away. They were within 68-65 after a 3-pointer by Michael Williams with 9.7 seconds left, and had a chance to tie when Rashad Green stole the inbounds pass.
But as he grappled on the floor, San Francisco called timeout from the bench when the Dons didn't have any remaining. The technical gave Carter two more free throws, and he made one for a 69-65 Gonzaga lead. Goodson then stole the inbounds pass and sank a pair of free throws to seal the victory for the second-seeded Bulldogs.
Gonzaga (23-9) wasn't ready to breathe a sigh of relief yet, not with Saint Mary's (24-7) up next.
The Bulldogs and Gaels, who tied for the West Coast regular-season title, split their two meetings with each team winning on the road.
Saint Mary's won 73-71 on Jan. 27, but Gonzaga won the rematch, 89-85 in overtime on Feb. 24.
"We knew it was going to be a battle all year," Gonzaga center Robert Sacre said of facing Saint Mary's again. "Nothing will be given to us. We have to keep our heads down, keep focused and keep grinding away."
That's what the Bulldogs did despite the Dons' late charge.
San Francisco had three opportunities to tie the game or take the lead after Angelo Caloiaro's free throws cut Gonzaga's lead to 62-60 with 2:48 remaining.
But Green lost control in the lane on the Dons' next possession, then, after a Gonzaga miss, Sacre held his ground and drew a charging call on Green with 1:36 remaining.
After another Gonzaga miss, reserve Mike Hart then stole the ball from Green with 45 seconds remaining.
Carter made six straight free throws to bump Gonzaga's lead to 68-62 before Williams' 3-pointer.
Williams led San Francisco with 21 points while Perris Blackwell had 15 points and nine rebounds. Elias Harris and Sacre added 12 apiece for Gonzaga.
San Francisco held a 34-30 edge in rebounding and made two more 3-pointers. But the Dons also committed twice as many turnovers (16-8), and were outscored 19-9 in points off the miscues.
The Bulldogs led 35-25 at halftime after forcing San Francisco into seven turnovers and holding the Dons to 36.4 percent shooting.
Sunday's showdown was even wilder than the first time the teams met this season when San Francisco pulled out a 96-91 overtime win.
"They're a great basketball team," Few said. "Rex (Walters, USF coach) has done a great job with this team. I don't think anybody expected to see this (record). He got them in a great system that's really hard to guard. A lot of guys are flourishing in it."