Game #9-477: Saint Mary`s Gaels vs. Gonzaga BulldogsMarch 11, 2013 10:00 pm
Las Vegas, NV
As I prepared for travel to Las Vegas for the WAC Tournament, I noticed that if I scheduled my flight a little earlier, I could make it to the Orleans in time for the WCC Championship final. Since BYU joined the WCC, the final has been moved from Sunday to Monday, making a quick turnaround for the hotel and arena staff between the two tournaments, but making it much easier to see a little of each.
I had seen each of the participating schools play men's basketball only once previously. I saw Gonzaga make one of its first forays onto the national stage at the 1999 West Regional final; the Bulldogs lost to Connecticut in the America West Arena in Phoenix in what I remember was a great game between two very good teams; UConn went on to win the championship that year. The Saint Mary's Gaels were the BracketBusters opponent for New Mexico State in 2009; I saw the return game in Las Cruces the following year, an easy win by the Gaels.
These are both very good teams. Saint Mary's, led by Australian point guard Matthew Dellavedova, had a record of 27-5, 14-2 in the WCC, losing only to Gonzaga in the conference. Gonzaga, of course, is currently ranked the number one team in the polls. The Zags (30-2, 16-0 WCC) had only losses against Illinois (every team seems to have at least one bad game a year) and in a heartbreaker at Hinkle Fieldhouse against Butler, recapped by my Ballyfest Destiny teammate, Craig Hanford
. The Bulldogs also have outstanding players from outside the country, particularly Canadians forward Kelly Olynyk and point guard Kevin Pangos.
The WCC tournament started last Wednesday, with ninth-seed Loyola Marymount upsetting the Portland Pilots. The five through seven seeds started play on Thursday. Sixth-seed San Diego eliminated Pepperdine, seeded seventh, by three points; the LMU Lions continued their run from last place, defeating the USF Dons in overtime. Friday marked the appearances of Brigham Young, the third-seed who lost by three to the USD Toreros, and of four seed Santa Clara, who lost by two to the upstart Lions. LMU won three games getting to the semifinals, but were spent and crushed by top-seeded Gonzaga; Saint Mary's got a three point overtime win over USD to make the final include the top two teams from the regular season.
The first part of the game was fairly close. Dellevedova's jumper gave the Gaels what proved to be their last lead of the game, 16-15, with about eight minutes played. After Sam Gower's deep jumper put the Zags once again in the lead, Gael guard Jorden Page went down trying to reach a ball that had been saved inbounds; his right knee injury looked serious, and he did not return to the game after being helped from the floor. The disconcerted Gaels gave up seven more points, five by Olynyk, before a couple of superhoops by junior guard Stephen Holt brought the Gaels back into contention. The half finished with Gonzaga leading 38-29 on Elias Harris's driving layup to end the period.
Holt led all scorers with twelve for Saint Mary's; he was certainly the Gaels best player in the first half and seemingly did everything at a high level: score, rebound, play defense, etc. Teammate Brad Waldow's nine points made him the only other Gael with more than three. Dellavedova was pretty much shut down by the Zags' defensive focus, scoring two. The Zags were led by Harris (eleven) and Olynyk (ten).
Gonzaga scored the first five points of the second half, extending their lead to fourteen, and really never looked back. A 7-0 Saint Mary's run cut the margin to twelve at the under-twelve media timeout, but Holt's seven early second half points did not keep up with Harris and Olynyk's output. The lead stretched to seventeen, and Gonzaga stretched each possession, holding the ball near midcourt until the shot clock wound down to ten. With ninety second remaining and leading by nineteen, Mark Few cleared the bench. Gael Brad Levesque made a couple of meaningless superhoops in "garbage time" making the final score 65-51.
Harris had nineteen points for the winners, and was named the tournament's most valuable player, joining Olynyk, who scored twenty-one and grabbed twelve rebounds, on the all-tournament team. Holt had nineteen points and seven rebounds to lead the Gaels in both categories. Waldow, with nine points in the final, was also named all-tournament.
Gonzaga's victory gives the Bulldogs the WCC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, where they will likely be the one-seed in the West Region. Saint Mary's solid season may give them a tournament bid as well; they will be sweating out the results of other games until Sunday's tournament selections.
GONZAGA 65, SAINT MARY`S 51
SAINT MARY`S 27-6 (14-2) -- M. Dellavedova 1-8 0-0 2; S. Holt 8-14 0-0 19; B. Waldow 3-7 3-5 9; B. Levesque 3-7 0-2 9; M. Young 2-4 1-2 5; J. Giusti 0-5 0-0 0; E. Petrulis 1-5 0-0 3; M. Hodgson 2-4 0-0 4; J. Page 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 20-56 4-9 51.
GONZAGA 31-2 (16-0) -- K. Pangos 2-8 0-0 4; E. Harris 8-13 3-3 19; K. Olynyk 7-12 7-9 21; G. Bell Jr. 4-6 0-0 9; M. Hart 0-0 2-2 2; D. Stockton 1-2 0-0 3; S. Dower 3-5 0-0 6; D. Barham 0-0 0-0 0; K. Dranginis 0-1 0-0 0; G. Landry Edi 0-0 0-0 0; P. Karnowski 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 25-48 13-16 65.
Three-point goals: SMC 7-27 (J. Page 0-2; M. Young 0-1; M. Dellavedova 0-4; B. Levesque 3-5; S. Holt 3-8; E. Petrulis 1-4; J. Giusti 0-3), GONZ 2-9 (E. Harris 0-2; K. Olynyk 0-2; D. Stockton 1-2; G. Bell 1-1; K. Pangos 0-2); Rebounds: SMC 28 (S. Holt 7), GONZ 35 (K. Olynyk 12); Assists: SMC 12 (M. Dellavedova 7), GONZ 12 (E. Harris 3); Total Fouls -- SMC 14, GONZ 10; Fouled Out: SMC-None; GONZ-None.