Didn't see that coming. Doubt Saint Mary's did either.
Gonzaga blasted the Gaels 75-47 on Saturday to wrap up the regular season. The victory no doubt boosted GU's NCAA Tournament resume if the Zags don't win next week's WCC Tournament.
My unedited game story is below. Check back tomorrow for a day-after post.
By Jim Meehan
MORAGA, Calif. – Gonzaga’s seniors had a pretty good night on Saint Mary’s Senior Night.
So did the Bulldogs’ juniors, sophomores, freshmen, starters, reserves, centers, forwards and guards. It was that kind of night.
Gonzaga crushed rival Saint Mary’s for the second time this season, rolling to a 75-47 victory in the regular-season finale Saturday viewed by 3,500 inside steamy McKeon Pavilion.
The Zags (25-6, 15-3) played some of their best basketball of the season, beefed up their NCAA Tournament credentials and won for the fifth time in six years on Saint Mary’s home floor.
“We had our daubers down and did not play good last weekend and it’s difficult to try to right the ship on the road,” coach Mark Few said. “But to these guys’ credit, and it’s all them, they banded together. We really played a tough, hard-nosed, physical brand of ball this weekend.”
Saint Mary’s, which trailed by 30 in falling to 73-51 in Spokane, dropped to 21-10, 11-7.
“We just didn’t compete, plain and simple,” said Gaels’ senior Stephen Holt, who struggled for the second straight time against Gonzaga, missing all six of his field-goal attempts but making 10 of 10 at the free-throw line.
It was the most lopsided outcome in the series since Gonzaga’s 105-65 win in the 2001 WCC Tournament. Saint Mary’s fourth-place finish is its worst since placing fifth in 2003.
Sam Dower Jr. had 15 points and 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. David Stockton added 10 points, five rebounds and five assists. Przemek Karnowski chipped in 10 points and six rebounds, and helped keep Saint Mary’s center Brad Waldow in check. Waldow, limited to a season-low five points in Spokane, scored just nine points.
“He’s the best defensive player in this conference,” Dower said of Karnowski. “To give a guy like Waldow problems, it’s saying something.”
Beau Levesque, one of six seniors honored prior to the game, hit a 3-pointer on SMC’s first possession. The Gaels didn’t score for the next 6:30. By then, the Zags had rattled off 12 unanswered points and started to establish a few trends. GU, similar to Thursday’s win over Pacific, found avenues to the rim off the dribble and their defense controlled SMC’s perimeter players without yielding much inside.
Gonzaga led by 10 after Drew Barham’s 3-pointer with 12:01 left in the first half. The margin grew to 17 on Angel Nunez’s two free throws. Dower’s free throw gave Gonzaga a 42-22 halftime lead.
The Gaels made just 18.5 percent of their first-half shots. Ten free throws accounted for nearly half of their points. All nine Zags that played scored, led by Dower’s nine points.
It was more of the same in the second half. Gonzaga scored eight of the first 10 points to go in front by 26. The margin reached 30 when Barham swished a 3-pointer from the corner with 12:05 remaining. GU’s biggest lead was 34.
“Never in my wildest dreams,” said Stockton, when asked if he ever thought he’d see a 34-point differential. “Defensively we worked together and took the scouting report (to the court). Mainly it was just covering for each other, help on help on help. Offensively, everybody that came in was calm and did what they can do.”
The Zags made 56 percent of their shots, handed out 17 assists and won the boards, 42-30. Gonzaga had a 42-14 edge in points in the paint. The Gaels finished at a season-low 23.1 percent. The Gaels’ 47 and 51 points against Gonzaga represent their second- and third-lowest outputs of the season.
“Guys took responsibility for what they weren’t doing in those games (last week) and as a team we grew,” Dower said. “We knew what we had to do here. Big things were at stake. We came in and put our hard hats on and came ready to work.”
Gonzaga will be the top seed in the WCC Tournament and open up Saturday against the winner of No. 8 Pacific and No. 9 Santa Clara. The fourth-seeded Gaels will face No. 5 Pepperdine next Saturday.