It took nearly 25 minutes, but the Gonzaga Bulldogs finally put the clamps on Omar Samhan and, essentially, Saint Mary’s.
The Bulldogs, riding a balanced offense and a defense that grew stingier as the game progressed, pulled away for an 80-61 men’s basketball victory Thursday in front of a packed house of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
No. 16 Gonzaga (20-4, 8-1 WCC) is back in the driver’s seat in the West Coast Conference as it pursues its 10th consecutive title. Saint Mary’s dropped to 21-4 and 8-2, with a road date against third-place Portland on Saturday. Both of the Gaels’ losses in conference have been to Gonzaga.
Samhan, much like the first meeting last month in Moraga, gave Gonzaga fits, scoring 15 points in the first half. He added four more early in the second half and his field goal at the 17-minute mark tied it at 43. The Bulldogs broke in front 52-46 after Kelly Olynyk’s layup.
The Gaels fed the ball to Samhan, who attempted a shot that 7-foot-5 center Will Foster blocked before it left Samhan’s hands. Samhan pounced on the loose ball but was called for traveling. Matt Bouldin made a 3-pointer at the other end.
With Samhan on the bench taking a brief rest, center Robert Sacre hit a putback at the other end as Gonzaga’s lead grew to 59-46. Samhan quickly returned, but Sacre rejected his shot under the basket, leading to a Bouldin bank shot and a commanding 64-50 lead with 11:40 remaining.
Elias Harris led Gonzaga with 19 points, 14 in the second half. Bouldin added 18 points and Sacre 13.
points and six rebounds. The Bulldogs made 54.2 percent of their shots.
Samhan, who had 31 points in Saint Mary’s 89-82 loss in Moraga, had a team-high 21 points, but was just 2 of 7 in the second half. Matthew Dellavedova chipped in 11 points, nine coming in the first half. Samhan finished his career 0-4 against GU in Spokane. Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett has lost all nine games against the Bulldogs in Spokane.
The Gaels made 44.4 percent from the floor in the first half, but cooled to 37.3 percent overall. Saint Mary’s was limited to 25 second-half points.
The Bulldogs trailed 12-4 before their offense started clicking. Bol Kong’s 3-pointer tied it at 16 with 9:16 left and his layup gave the Bulldogs their first lead. The teams traded baskets or free throws until Ben Allen’s 3-pointer evened it at 36 with 8 seconds left. After a timeout, GU’s Bouldin created some open space and drained a long 3-pointer just before the buzzer, giving GU a 39-36 lead.
Gonzaga made 13 of 17 shots after a 3-of-12 start. Sacre led the way with 10 of his 13 points in the first half.