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Best of Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s: Six memorable meetings

Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s will renew their WCC rivalry Thursday in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (File / SR)

Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s have been the WCC’s top two teams, usually in that order, for the last 15 years.

Nothing’s changed this season. No. 13 Gonzaga (16-3) and receiving-votes Saint Mary’s (17-2) share first place with the first of possibly three meetings set for Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

It’s been an entertaining rivalry with last-second shots, overtime thrillers and streak-sustaining victories. With both teams 6-0 in WCC play, here are six memorable Zags-Gaels games from the past 15 years.

Feb. 11, 2017: Gonzaga 74-64

The unbeaten, top-ranked Zags handled the hoopla of ESPN’s College GameDay, an overflow crowd at McKeon Pavilion and the 20th-rated Gaels.

Gonzaga dominated inside. Przemek Karnowski and Johnathan Williams combined to make 16 of 22 shots, score 36 points and grab 18 rebounds. Nigel Williams-Goss added 14 points and Silas Melson 12.

“There was a lot of hype about this game,” Karnowski said. “We knew we needed to come here and play aggressive defensively and offensively. We’re a really good defensive team. Defense needs to travel and so far it’s been traveling with us.”

Gaels center Jock Landale was in foul trouble but still managed 24 points in 25 minutes. His teammates contributed just 40 points.

“They had a field day on us in the post,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said.

The Zags posted their 18th consecutive double-digit victory.

March 8, 2016: Gonzaga 85-75

The Zags lost both regular-season meetings to Saint Mary’s and were probably on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble if they had lost in the WCC Tournament championship game.

Instead, the Zags dug out a win and stretched their NCAA Tournament streak to 18 years.

“Hey, all is well in Zagville again, huh?’ coach Mark Few said over the P.A. system during the trophy presentation at Orleans Arena. “The streak is alive.”

Eric McClellan scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half. He made four free throws after the Gaels cut GU’s lead to one, buried a late 3-pointer and provided the exclamation point with a dunk in the closing seconds.

“I just said it’s a new half and I’m just going to play my game,” McClellan said.

Tournament MVP Kyle Wiltjer had 17 points, Josh Perkins 16, Domantas Sabonis 15 and Kyle Dranginis 13. Emmett Naar poured in 25 points for the Gaels, who went 2-1 in the NIT.

Feb. 24, 2011: Gonzaga 89-85 (OT)

Sam Dower scored 21 points to help the Zags outlast the Gaels in front of a packed house at McKeon Pavilion.

Saint Mary’s led 84-83 before Dower’s two free throws with 19.9 seconds left. Robert Sacre had two free throws and Dower added two more with 9.8 seconds remaining as the Zags avenged an earlier home loss to Saint Mary’s.

“That was a high-level affair,” Few said.

The loss was the Gaels’ third straight as Gonzaga rallied to share the regular-season title with Saint Mary’s. Gonzaga beat Saint Mary’s 75-63 in the WCC Tournament title game and the Gaels ended up in the NIT.

“It was a tight game and I knew I had to make them,” Dower said. “We just had to give it our all because they gave us one at home and I felt like we owed them one.”

Jan. 27, 2011: Saint Mary’s 73-71

Mickey McConnell connected with a 15-foot jumper with 1.2 seconds left to give the Gaels a rare win at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Saint Mary’s hadn’t won in Spokane since 1995.

Gonzaga center Sacre switched onto McConnell after the Gaels guard came off a high screen.

“We couldn’t have guarded it any better,” Few said, “but he still had the moxie to get it up there. I don’t know how many of those he could make out of 10, but to his credit he stepped up and hit it.”

McConnell, who had 27 points and six assists, put an end to a tight game with 12 lead changes and eight ties. Elias Harris, Dower, Steven Gray and Sacre combined for 63 of GU’s 71 points.

Gonzaga suffered three consecutive WCC losses for the first time in 14 seasons and dropped three games behind the Gaels in the standings.

Jan. 29, 2009: Gonzaga 69-62

The Zags rallied in the second half with an injured Patty Mills on the bench to win a battle of ranked teams at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Mills put on a show with six 3-pointers and 18 points, but he broke his wrist late in the first half, which ended with the Gaels leading by six.

Gonzaga took the lead 50-48 after a 12-0 run, capped by Micah Downs’ dunk on a lob pass from Jeremy Pargo. Matt Bouldin paced the Zags with 17 points. Gray had 14 and Pargo 11.

The Gaels’ Diamon Simpson collected 17 points and 12 rebounds but center Omar Samhan struggled with just eight points and seven boards.

“It’s unfortunate because it was a great game when (Mills) was in there, and it was a great game after he was out,” Few said. “I hope he’s well, because it’s great to have him in the league and he’s improved so much.”

Feb. 4, 2008: Saint Mary’s 89-85 (OT)

The Gaels had emerged as Gonzaga’s conference rival, but they established themselves even more with a second consecutive home win over the Zags.

The win in 2007 was just the Gaels’ second in 23 series meetings. This one helped the Gaels reach the NCAA Tournament for the second time in four seasons.

Freshman point guard Mills scored Saint Mary’s last 10 points in regulation and finished with 23 points. Todd Golden made six 3-pointers, including one that gave bumped SMC’s lead to 84-80 lead with 1:20 left in the extra session.

Pargo scored nine of his 27 points in overtime. He added nine assists. Austin Daye chipped in 15 points.

“It was a heck of a battle,” Pargo said. “They always play us tough down here and we always come in ready to battle, because we know what kind of fight they’re going to put up. We just did some things late in that game that hurt us.”