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Zags win 89-82

Game story below. Gotta run for quotes.

By Jim Meehan; (208) 765-7131

MORAGA, Calif. – The Gonzaga Bulldogs are just two games into the 14-game West Coast Conference regular season, but they’ve already taken two large steps toward their 10th consecutive conference title.

Gonzaga snagged its second big road breakthrough, a wild 89-82 victory over Saint Mary’s viewed by an overflow crowd at McKeon Pavilion late Thursday night. The 17th-ranked Bulldogs now own wins over Portland and the Gaels (15-3, 2-1), considered by most to be their primary challengers. 

Thursday’s win was reminiscent of GU’s 81-78 victory over Portland last Saturday. The Bulldogs seemed to be in control, but were forced to hold off a late rally by their opponent. Gonzaga (13-2, 2-0 WCC) will try to make it 3 for 3 on the road in WCC play when it visits San Diego on Saturday.

With a handful of NBA scouts watching from the back row at steamy McKeon Pavilion, Gonzaga freshman forward Elias Harris put on a show that probably had the talent evaluators jotting down extensive notes. Harris poured in a season-high 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.

He wasn’t alone as junior guard Steven Gray had 14 points and 14 rebounds to go with six assists. Senior guard Matt Bouldin added 22 points, including a key pair of free throws with 26.2 seconds left to extend GU’s lead to 86-80.

Harris put Gonzaga in front 69-54 just past the midpoint of the second half, but the Gaels mounted a furious comeback, aided by a couple of sloppy turnovers by the Zags. Saint Mary’s, riding Omar Samhan’s hot scoring hand, scored eight unanswered points to close within seven.

The Gaels kept the pressure on, but the Bulldogs answered with critical baskets, often by Harris, who hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key, a put-back jam and free-throw jumper to keep Gonzaga’s at eight, 82-74.

Samhan, after a slow start, scored 25 of his 31 points in the second half.

Gonzaga made 59.7 percent of its shots and won the rebounds, 45-27.

Harris nearly had a double-double and Gray packed his stat line as Gonzaga raced to a 45-33 halftime lead. Harris hit 6 of 9 shots, most within six feet of the hoop, en route to 16 points. He also had nine rebounds. Gray, coming off a subpar game against Portland, had nine points, six rebounds and five assists. Bouldin added eight points.

Saint Mary’s never led and it was only tied once, at 10-all. Still, the Gaels were within 36-33, thanks to Matthew Dellavedova’s four 3-pointers and 15 points. But the Zags scored the last nine points of the half while holding Saint Mary’s scoreless over the final 4:30. Bouldin sandwiched five points around four by Harris as Gonzaga stretched its lead to 12.

Saint Mary’s misfired repeatedly from close range and finished the first half shooting 34.3 percent (12 of 35). Samhan, who entered the game as the WCC’s leading scorer at 20.8 points, didn’t score until 7:20 remained. He had six points at the break on 2-of-9 shooting, but rebounded with a big second half. Dellavedova finished with a season-high 23 points for the Gaels, who entertain Portland on Saturday.


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Jim Meehan (@srjimm) Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Sean Kramer Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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