Gonzaga is bathed in blue light and showered in confetti as Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Hunter Sallis (10) holds the WCC championship trophy following GU’s defeat of the St. Mary’s Gaels during the second half of the Men’s WCC Championship basketball game on Tuesday Mar 8, 2022, at the Orleans in Las Vegas, Nev. Gonzaga won the game 82-69. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga is going into the NCAA Tournament with an exclamation mark.
Chet Holmgren and Anton Watson traded emphatic dunks to cap the No. 1 Bulldogs’ 82-69 win over No. 17 Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game, giving the Zags their third straight conference tournament title and likely the top overall seed for the NCAA Tournament.
Questions about Gonzaga letting off the gas during its semifinal win over San Francisco were answered as the Bulldogs (26-3) made their last 11 attempts from the field to hold off the Gales (24-7), who closed the gap to two points with 7:28 remaining.
It was Gonzaga’s guards that made the difference, not the frontcourt duo of Chet Holmgren and Drew Timme. Andrew Nembhard scored a team high 19 points, while Rasir Bolton added 18. The two combined for 17 straight points from the 7:13-2:46 remaining in the second half.
Gonzaga will find out its fate in the NCAA Tournament bracket during the selection show on Sunday at 3 p.m. on CBS.
14:23 - GU 7, SMC 7: Both teams off to similar starts, sloppy through the first three minutes and a couple of turnovers apiece.
Nembhard gets the offense going at the 16:52 mark with a 3-pointer, scores a layup on the following possession and then finds Holmgren for his first basket. Both teams are 3 of 8 from the field and 1 of 1 on 3-pointers.
11:32 - SMC 12, GU 11: Strawther knocks down a pair of free throws and the Gaels turn the ball over at the U12 media timeout.
Not much separating either team. Nembhard leads GU with seven points. Johnson leads the Gaels with four, including a break-away dunk.
7:24 - GU 23, SMC 16: Zags go on a 9-2 run capped by a pretty spin move in the post by Watson at the U8 media timeout.
Strawther knocks down a pair of 3-pointers for a team-high 10 points. Watson with four points and four rebounds, leading the Zags’ frontcourt, which struggled against the Gaels in their last meeting.
3:48 - GU 29, SMC 21: Kuhse knocks down a 3-pointer at the U4 media timeout to cut into the Zags’ lead.
Gonzaga shooting 11 of 22 from the field and 4 for 9 on 3-pointers. Gaels yet to record a bench point to the Bulldogs’ seven and Gonzaga holds a 6-3 lead in assists.
Nembhard has seven points and four assists.
Gonzaga’s frontcourt duo of Chet Holmgren and Drew Timme haven’t been a factor, just like the last time they played Saint Mary’s, but this time others have stepped up to give the Zags a 38-28 halftime lead in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship.
Las Vegas native Julian Strawther has taken charge in his hometown scoring a team high 13 points on 4 of 5 shooting and making all three of his 3-point attempts.
Anton Watson has been key in the post scoring six points with five rebounds on 3 of 3 shooting off the bench, while Timme has two points and one rebound and Holmgren is 1 of 7 from the field with two points.
Andrew Nembhard has been his reliable self, scoring seven points with four assists.
On the other side, Tommy Kuhse is keeping the Gaels in it with nine points and five rebounds, while Logan Johnson and Alex Ducas each have six points apiece.
14:30 - GU 44, SMC 36: Gaels open the second half with a 8-6 scoring advantage as the Zags go cold, just 2 of 7 from the field.
Both the Bulldogs’ baskets came on pretty plays, a dunk from Holmgren and a behind-the-back pass from Nembhard to Timme under the hoop.
Timme and Holmgren both with four points apiece.
11:10 - GU 48, SMC 45: Gaels on a 7-2 run to close the gap to one possession at the U12 media timeout.
SMC with three players in double figures led by Kuhse with 12 points. Gaels are controlling the half, shooting 7 of 12 from the field, while the Zags are 4 of 10.
7:28 - GU 56, SMC 52: Zags holding onto the lead as Holmgren goes to the bench with four fouls at the U8 media timeout.
Timme makes a hook shot to give him 10 points in the game, as both teams are trading baskets. Watson, who has eight points with five rebounds, becomes more pivotal with Holmgren on the bench.
3:55 - GU 68, SMC 59: Nembhard and Bolton combine for 12 points over a four minute stretch to start to pull away from the Gaels.
Bolton now has a team-high 16 points as four Zags are in double figures.
2:24 - GU 73, SMC 63: Johnson makes a layup with a foul and a chance to cut the lead to single digits after the U4 media timeout.
Gonzaga getting close to winning its third straight WCC title, not letting this lead slip, having made its last nine field goal attempts. A win will likely give the Zags the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament.
Saint Mary knocked off the top team in the country, surrounded by court-storming fans just 10 days ago. Gonzaga left Moraga, California, with its first conference loss in over two years – a week to sit and stew before the West Coast Conference Tournament.
The No. 1 Bulldogs (25-3) came out firing in their 81-71 WCC semifinal win over San Francisco in Las Vegas last night, setting up today’s championship rematch with the No. 17 Gaels (24-6), who beat third-seeded Santa Clara 75-72. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. on ESPN.
It wasn’t long ago SMC beat Gonzaga to solidify its standing as one of the top teams in the country.
Now the stakes have risen in the Sin City.
Gonzaga looks to lock up the top overall scene in the NCAA Tournament and win its 9th WCC Tournament title in the last 10 years.
SMC is slotted as a No. 6 seed for the NCAA Tournament in Joe Lumbardi’s ESPN Bracketology and would significantly raise its stock with another win over the Zags. A win would be the Gaels’ fourth title since 2010 – the only other team to win it in that span.
Saint Mary’s beat Gonzaga 67-57 in the last meeting, splitting the season series, after the Zags won 74-58 on Feb. 12.
The Bulldogs and Gaels have met 11 times in the West Coast Conference Tournament Championship, with Gonzaga winning eight. The Zags have won the tournament 19 times dating back to 1999, while the Gaels have won four – the second most in the conference – coming in 1997, 2010, 2012 and 2019.
Gonzaga holds a 16-3 head-to-head conference tournament lead over SMC.
The Zags won the 2020 WCC Tournament title over the Gaels 84-66.
Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Joel Ayayi (11) drives to the hoop and shoots against Saint Mary’s Gaels guard Jordan Ford (3) and guard Tommy Kuhse (12) during the first half of a West Coast Conference championship basketball game on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at The Orleans in Las Vegas, Nev. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
More on the Zags
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Follow along with the Zags
Subscribe to our Gonzaga Basketball newsletter to stay up with the latest news.