It almost seemed scripted that on an unprecedented day of upsets, college basketball’s top ranked team would also fall.
No. 23 Saint Mary’s came out strong and asserted itself in the post en route to a 67-57 win over No. 1 Gonzaga in Moraga, California on Saturday, as each of the top six ranked team in the Associated Press Top 25 all lost on the same day for the first time in NCAA history.
Tommy Kuhse led the Gaels (24-6, 12-3 West Coast) with 14 points, but it was Kyle Bowen whose two late 3-pointers – after starting the game 0 of 7 from the field – held off the Bulldogs (24-3, 13-1) comeback effort.
SMC started on a 8-0 run, staggering the Zags and instilling a shell-shocked feeling that didn’t fade, especially upon Gonzaga’s leader Drew Timme who started 0 of 8 from the field and didn’t score until 14:54 remaining in the second half.
Gonzaga shot 36.7% from the field and forced the game onto the shoulders of its backcourt. Rasir Bolton scored a team high 16 points, while Andrew Nembhard had 15 and Julian Strawther added 14. Timme and Chet Holmgren each scored six points apiece.
The Bulldogs managed four assists in the game.
It likely won’t be the last time these two teams meet, with both into the semifinal for the WCC Tournament there’ll likely be a trilogy on March 8 in Las Vegas.
15:38 - SMC 10, GU 3: Saint Mary’s got out to a 8-0 run, before Nembhard scored a step back 3-pointer to get the Zags on the board.
Gaels 5 of their first 7 attempts at the U16 media timeout. Gonzaga just 1 of 6 in the early going.
It’s been a day for upsets in college basketball with six of the AP Top 10 teams losing earlier Saturday. Gonzaga will try and avoid becoming the seventh.
10:46 - SMC 19, GU 14: Gaels doing a great job of containing Timme, held to 0 of 5 shooting at the U12 media timeout.
Kuhse leads SMC with eight points, as the Gaels hold a 9-5 advantage on the glass. Gonzaga made to rely on its guards to stay in the game with 12 of its 14 points coming from Nembhard, Bolton and Strawther.
6:32 - SMC 24, GU 16: Both teams struggled to score during a four minute stretch, as the Bulldogs cut the lead to three, but Saint Mary’s quickly adds five points on a Johnson 3-pointer and layup by Mullins to force a Gonzaga timeout.
Gonzaga having one of its worst offensive halves of the season, 7 of 20 from the field. SMC is 11 of 22 and its controlling the paint. The Gaels hold a 20-6 advantage on points in the paint.
4:06 - SMC 31, GU 16: Gaels go on a 12-0 run over the last 2:48 and the UCU Pavilion is rocking as Gonzaga calls for another timeout.
The Zags’ forwards seem invisible as Timme is 0 of 6 from the field, Holmgren has one shot attempt and they both have two turnovers apiece.
Kuhse has a team high 10 points, but the difference has been SMC’s forwards, who are leading the Gaels to a 17-12 advantage on rebounds and 26-6 scoring difference in the paint.
Saint Mary’s came out firing and has shocked Gonzaga through the first 20 minutes, pilling up a 15 point lead and erasing Drew Timme.
Timme was clearly frustrated with himself after shooting 0 of 8 from the field and committing three turnovers.
SMC has been led by senior guard Tommy Kuhse’s 10 points, four rebounds and two assists, as the Gaels hold a 28-8 advantage in paint points. SMC has also held Gonzaga to 31% shooting.
Nembhard has a team high seven points for the Zags, while Bolton adds six. Timme and Holmgren will need to step up for Gonzaga to make a comeback in the second half.
14:27 - SMC 46, GU 32: Saint Mary’s continues to keep pace with the Zags out of halftime, as Kuhse is up to 12 points.
Timme finally gets his first points on an assist from Holmgren, but Strawther is called for an offensive foul leading into the U16 media timeout.
11:53 - SMC 50, GU 36: Johnson throws down a spectacular dunk, then follows that up with a block of Sallis on the other end.
Gonzaga is going to need to make some stops as SMC is still seemingly scoring inside at will.
7:42 - SMC 53, GU 40: Gonzaga unable to take advantage of a lengthy SMC scoring drought, as Ducas makes a 3-pointer and the Bulldogs call for a timeout.
Gonzaga makes just two field goals over the four minute Gael scoring drought.
6:20 - SMC 55, GU 46: Bolton makes a layup and will have a free throw attempt after the U8 media timeout. Bolton’s team high 15 points giving Gonzaga the spark it desperately needs.
2:22 - SMC 60, GU 52: Kuhse goes for a dagger 3-pointer that falls well short at the U4 media timeout.
Turnovers and missed shots close to the basket killing the Zags’ hopes of a comeback.
1:13 - SMC 63, GU 55: Bowen makes a 3-pointer and the game is all but over. Saint Mary’s fans are getting ready to rush the court, as the Gaels will win their second game over a No. 1 team in school history if the score holds.
Gonzaga’s home court duo of Chet Holmgren and Drew Timme seem to be reaching their peak potential.
It couldn’t come at a better time, as No. 1 Gonzaga prepares for its toughest conference game of the season at No. 23 Saint Mary’s tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPN. With a win, Gonzaga will go undefeated in West Coast Conference play for the second straight season.
Holmgren led the Bulldogs (24-2, 13-0 WCC) to an 89-73 win over San Francisco on Thursday, scoring 21 points with 15 rebounds, six blocks and two steals. Timme added a near-triple double with 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
The Gaels (23-6, 11-3) secured the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament with a 60-46 win over San Diego on Thursday, earning a bye into the semifinals. SMC is projected to receive a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN’s Joe Lumbardi and are ranked No. 20 in the NET rankings.
The Gaels would certainly bolster their resume with a win over Gonzaga in Moraga, California tonight, but they’ll have to find a way to stop Holmgren and Timme to do so.
Let’s watch that coast-to-coast dunk one more time.
Gonzaga beat then-No. 22 Saint Mary’s 74-58 in Spokane on Feb. 12, which was the WCC’s only other meeting of AP Top 25 teams.
The Zags pulled away in the first half and led by as many as 21 with 15:42 remaining and fended off a late run, as the Gaels pulled within eight with 3:08 in the second half.
Gonzaga holds a 77-31 all-time series lead over SMC, including seven straight wins.
Two prospective Zag recruits, Jared McCain, center left, (in Yankees sweatshirt) and Dusty Stromer, right, watch the Zags beat St. Mary’s Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022 in the McCarthey Athletic Center at Gonzaga in Spokane, Washington. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
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