Saint Mary's loss 65-51 to No. 1 Gonzaga at WCC

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 12, 2013
Saint Mary's took care of the ball, got some good looks at the basket and generally had a decent game at the offensive end. The Gaels just couldn't get anything to go in, which gave them no chance against a team like top-ranked Gonzaga. Leading scorer Matthew Dellavedova struggled against Gonzaga's trapping defense and the rest of the Gaels clanged one shot after to another, leading to a 65-51 loss to the Zags on Monday night in the West Coast Conference tournament final. ''Sometimes playing well comes down to making shots,'' Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. ''I think it's that simple: We didn't shoot the ball well enough to stay close in this game and get it down to the stretch.'' Already headed to the NCAA tournament for the 15th straight season, Gonzaga (31-2) sure had the look of a NCAA tournament No. 1 seed against the West Coast rivals, dominating at both ends. The deep Zags shot 52 percent, dominated inside and teamed up to hound Dellavedova everywhere he went. Kelly Olynyk had 21 points and 23 rebounds, Elias Harris added 19 points and Gonzaga had a 42-18 advantage in the paint to win its 14th straight game. But instead of hopping up and down at their accomplishment, the Zags gave a few high fives and hugs amid the streamers falling from the ceiling, a subdued celebration for a team that has eyes on a bigger prize. ''You've got to enjoy your successes when they come, but you have to be short-minded in the sense that it's not the end of the year for us and we still want to come out and make some noise in the tournament,'' Olynyk said. Saint Mary's (27-6) labored against Gonzaga's attacking defense and size inside, particularly after point guard Jorden Page injured his right knee midway through the first half. Dellavedova struggled for the second straight game, scoring two points on 1-of-8 shooting, and the Gaels went 7-for-27 from 3-point range while shooting 35 percent overall. Stephen Holt led Saint Mary's, which should have a solid enough resume to earn an at-large NCAA bid. ''We don't have that margin of error against them,'' Bennett said. ''We were able to tough it out and fight it out against San Diego (in the semifinals), but against a team like Gonzaga this year, you're going to have to play better, you're going to have to make shots.'' Gonzaga has been the marker for mid-major success, reaching the NCAA tournament 14 straight seasons and the regional finals four times, including the past two years. This season, the Zags broke through a big barrier on their way to 30 wins for the first time: No. 1. Behind Olynyk, the long-haired Canadian with the Seattle-grunge vibe and way-above-the-rim game, Gonzaga lost just two games - to ranked teams - and became the first team to go 16-0 in the WCC. That earned the Bulldogs a spot atop The Associated Press poll for the first time last week. While glare at the top was too much for many teams in this season of parity, Gonzaga handled prosperity well, closing the regular season with a rout over Portland. Gonzaga then beat Loyola Marymount in the semifinals of the WCC tournament to reach the title game for the 16th straight season. Waiting for them was a familiar foe. The Gaels and Bulldogs have met 15 times the past five seasons, trading WCC tournament championships each of the past four years. Gonzaga beat Saint Mary's both times they met during the regular season, 83-78 at home and 77-60 in the Bay Area. The Gaels nearly missed a third shot, needing a late 3-pointer by Dellavedova and overtime to hold off San Diego in the WCC semifinals. Saint Mary's managed to keep it close until Page got hurt at 11:42 of first half, then went more than 6 minutes without a field goal against Gonzaga's aggressive man defense. Olynyk brought the mostly pro-Gonzaga crowd to its feet by stripping Dellavedova and streaking in for a breakaway dunk, then Kevin Pangos kept the roar going with a jumper off another steal. Harris followed with another basket on the break, putting the Bulldogs up 33-21 and the fans back on their feet. Gonzaga kept making shots and led 38-29 after halftime on the strength of 16-of-25 shooting from the floor. Dellavedova, who went 2 for 12 in the semifinals, barely had room to move against Gary Bell Jr.'s in-the-jersey defense, scoring two points on 1-of-4 shooting. The Gaels went 3 of 16 from 3-point range in the half. ''Jordy is an important part of our team and it didn't help us him going out,'' Dellavedova said. Gonzaga didn't let up in the second half. Olynyk opened with a basket inside, Bell put the Zags up 43-29 with a 3-pointer from the wing and Olynyk later put a punctuation mark on the runaway, soaring in for a one-handed dunk over Brad Waldow that made it a 19-point lead. Gonzaga rolled from there, a performance they hope is good enough for a No. 1 seed.
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