LAS VEGAS – What happened in Vegas … was pretty much what happened all season in the West Coast Conference.
Gonzaga dominated with stingy defense and balanced offense. Saint Mary’s, thought to be GU’s biggest threat, particularly with the return of Patty Mills, became the latest victim as the Bulldogs put six players in double figures and rolled to an 83-58 victory in the WCC tournament championship game Monday night in front of another sellout crowd of 7,845 at the Orleans Arena.
“Incredible performance; incredible weekend by our guys,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “From a coach’s standpoint, when they put it all together at both ends, defensively and offensively, it’s a great feeling and a beautiful sight to see.”
The 12th-ranked Bulldogs (26-5), who went undefeated in the WCC regular season with 10 of 14 wins by double digits, clobbered fourth-seeded Santa Clara by 35 and No. 2 Saint Mary’s by 25. It was the largest margin of victory in a title game since Gonzaga’s 91-66 win over Santa Clara in 1999.
Gonzaga, winners of nine straight and 18 of its last 19 games, earned its 11th straight trip to the NCAA tournament. The brackets will be announced Sunday.
“It looks like it,” said senior forward Josh Heytvelt, when asked if Gonzaga was playing at a level similar to its dominating performance in Orlando in November. “But I still feel like we can do a lot more, which is kind of scary. We had two really tough games with these guys and we had a tough game at Santa Clara and then we came here and blew both teams out.”
The Zags led from start to finish against the Gaels, whose NCAA tournament hopes were dealt a serious setback. In fact, GU led before tipoff. Saint Mary’s was called for a technical foul for dunking in warm-ups and Matt Bouldin made 1 of 2 free throws. Five minutes later Steven Gray’s bank shot made it 13-3.
Mills, who missed five weeks after having surgery on his broken right (shooting) hand, played well in Sunday’s win over Portland, but he suffered through a miserable night against Gonzaga.
He missed his first seven shots. He couldn’t connect on open looks from the perimeter and he came up empty on drives to the basket. He forced several shots that resulted in wild misses. He scored five points on 2-of-16 shooting.
“When you’re shooting as bad as that you have to focus on something else (but) I couldn’t do that either,” Mills said.
Gonzaga had no problem multi-tasking. The Bulldogs endured a ragged stretch offensively in the first half and closed with a 14-6 run to take a 13-point lead. Tournament MVP Micah Downs made both of his 3-pointers, Bouldin added another 3 and Heytvelt capped it with a three-point play.
Saint Mary’s made 8 of 34 first-half shots (23.5 percent). The Gaels continued to struggle, finishing 19 of 66 (28.8 percent). Diamon Simpson had 19 points and eight offensive rebounds. Omar Samhan added 17 points. They combined to make 12 of 27 attempts; the rest of the team was 7 of 39.
“We came out and pressured the heck out of them,” said Downs, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds. “Everyone was dialed in. We really scouted them; knew their tendencies. We played hard on the boards and just out-fought them.”
The Bulldogs made 20 of 29 second-half shots. Heytvelt was 5 of 5 in the second half and finished with a team-high 17 points. Bouldin had 14 points, seven assists and no turnovers in 37 minutes. Jeremy Pargo added 10 points and four assists. Demetri Goodson (11 points) and Gray (10) led a 23-point effort by the bench.
“People were hitting jump shots, layups. People were driving and kicking (the ball out),” Heytvelt said. “There was no way for Saint Mary’s to be able to guard us.”
Gonzaga’s balance made for some tough choices for all-tournament voters. Downs was joined by Bouldin, Pargo, Simpson and Santa Clara’s John Bryant as selection.
Gonzaga 83, Saint Mary’s 58
|Saint Mary’s (25-6)||Min||M-A||M-A||O-T||A||PF||PTS|
Percentages: FG .288. FT .773. 3-Point Goals: 3-17, .176 McConnell 2-4, Steindl 1-1, Hunter 0-1, O’Leary 0-1, Hughes 0-3, Mills 0-7). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 2 (Samhan 2). Turnovers: 6 (Simpson 2, Samhan 3, McConnell) Steals: 5 (Walker, Hughes 2, Mills 2). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .548. FT .600. 3-Point Goals: 9-18, .500 (Bouldin 3-5, Downs 2-3, Gray 2-3, Daye 1-2, Heytvelt 1-2, Brown 0-1, Pargo 0-2). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 4 (Daye, Heytvelt 2, Foster). Turnovers: 9 (Daye 2, Heytvelt, Pargo 2, Downs, Goodson, Gray 2) Steals: 4 (Daye, Heytvelt, Pargo, Gray). Technical Fouls: None. Halftime– Gonzaga 38, Saint Mary’s 25. A–7,845.
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