What was considered unthinkable, turned out to be quite possible. The Saint Mary’s Gaels (22-11, 11-5 WCC) managed to defeat the No.1 seed the Gonzaga Bulldogs (30-3, 16-0) and clinch the title of the West Coast Conference Men’s tournament.
It was 60-47 for the Gaels, who made a huge upset and snapped several streaks of the first-seeded team in the country.
But what is more important is that Saint Mary’s chances of reaching the NCAA tournament dramatically improved. We can expect the Gaels in the March Madness almost certainly after this win.
Their coach Randy Bennet was absolutely overwhelmed with positive emotions after the match, saying that he is not only proud on this particular game, but the entire season.
“The way we did it, from where we were at the beginning of the year until now, I get a lot of satisfaction out of that,” Saint Mary’s coach commented.
The Bulldogs’ 18-game winning streak at the WCC tournament is finally over. But there is one more run snapped last night.
Gonzaga lost for the first time after 21 consecutive wins, which was the longest active run in the NCAA.
Despite opening the game with 9-2, Saint Mary’s quickly bounced back and dragged the Zags into a slow rhythm, which was anything but suitable for the champions of the WCC’s regular part of the season.
The game got a different course in the middle of the first half when Gaels held Gonzaga scoreless for four minutes. In those moments the underdogs seized the control of the match and took the lead, which they haven’t lost until the very end of the event.
The second half started with Gonzaga being close, but they simply couldn’t get back into the game. Although coming down to only one point, on two occasions, the Bulldogs’ didn’t have the power to turn this game around.
And the main reason for such a thing is the fact that their offense played by far the worst game of the season.
In the last 9:17 the No.1 seed posted only 6 points, while on the other hand Saint Mary’s scored 18 points.
“Kind of the perfect storm, really,” Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert said. “Really inefficient offense, a combination of turnovers, missed shots and them just big-boying us on the glass. Everything that could go wrong went wrong for us.”
And when you look at the percentages recorded by the losing side, everything will be clear to you.
The Bulldogs made only 18 field goal attempts in 48 tries, making that 37.5%. Their downtown artillery completely failed, with two hits in 17 attempts. Now, even a championship contender can’t beat anyone with 11.8% from the three-point range.
“It was our worst offensive game of the year and they deserve credit for that,” Gonzaga’s coach Mark Few added after the match.
On the other hand, the Gaels were deliberately creating chaos on the court, trying to stall their attacks, and making the game go by without any flow.
— TheW.tv (@TheWtv) March 13, 2019
It was imperative for them to slow down the pace, as they knew that their chances for the win are much higher without Gonzaga’s fast breaks quick transitions.
There was also another thing, which concerned stopping Zags’ best player Rui Hachimura. One of the best college players at the moments finished the game with only 9 points, and 5 rebounds in 34 minutes on the floor.
Brandon Clarke scored 16 with 8 boards, and Josh Perkins added 10, making these two guys the only with double-digit points in the losing team.
Jordan Ford with 17 had a game-high for the Gaels. Tanner Krebs added 13, while Jordan Hunter played one of this best games of the season, and earned the man of the match award with 12 points and 15 boards.
He was like a lion on both ends of the court.
After one year of absence, the Gaels will be back at the NCAA tournament. As for the Zags, their No.1 seed is in danger after this loss, and they could easily end up lower in the AP Pool before the start of the NCAA tournament.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write, read, and bet on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a betting tips writer at WagerBop.