LAS VEGAS – Nine days after Saint Mary’s handed Gonzaga its first loss in West Coast Conference play, the Gaels made sure they’d get a chance to beat the top-ranked Bulldogs again – this time with much more on the line.
The second-seeded and 17th-ranked Gaels led third-seeded Santa Clara from wire-to-wire, but needed a late block from Spokane-born guard Logan Johnson to edge the Broncos 75-72 at Orleans Arena and set up a championship game matchup with the Bulldogs.
Tuesday’s title game between Gonzaga (25-3) and Saint Mary’s (25-6) will tip off at 6 p.m. on ESPN. Since 2004, 12 WCC championship games have featured both the Bulldogs and Gaels.
Tommy Kuhse scored a game-high 27 points for the Gaels, making 11-of-18 shots from the field, and the WCC’s sixth man of the year added five rebounds and four assists. Forward Matthias Tass and Johnson also scored in double figures for Saint Mary’s, with 18 and 13 points respectively.
Santa Clara closed the deficit to one point inside the final minute, but Johnson came up with a key block on Jalen Williams and made two free throws on the other end to secure the win.
The Gaels moved up to No. 19 in the AP Top 25 after upsetting Gonzaga 67-57 in Moraga on Feb. 26 while also ending the Bulldogs’ 17-game winning streak. Kuhse led Saint Mary’s with 14 points in that game and dished out six assists while the Gaels held Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren to a combined 12 points.
Saint Mary’s, which moved up two more spots to No. 17 in Monday’s poll, hasn’t won consecutive games against the Bulldogs since 2016. Gonzaga is 76-32 in the all-time series.
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