Associated press4 minute read
LAS VEGAS — Gonzaga players have heard criticism that this isn’t the same Bulldogs team that’s been part of the national elite in recent years, and they’ve even struggled to live up to the huge expectations of the program.
“There were many days where I wasn’t fun,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
The Bulldogs kept working on it and on Tuesday night, No. 9 Gonzaga sent a message to the rest of the country with a dominating 77-51 victory over No. 16 Saint Mary’s in the Conference Tournament championship game. the West Coast.
The Zags (28-5) continued their WCC dominance with their fourth straight tournament championship and 10th in 11 years, with Saint Mary’s in 2019 being the only exception. Gonzaga has won 21 tournament titles in total.
Drew Timme scored 18 points and became Gonzaga’s all-time leading scorer, earning tournament MVP.
“I took the win for granted,” Timme said. “I’ve won so much in my career, it’s a shock not to win. I think at the start of the year it made me appreciate what it takes to win night after night. I think that sometimes we kind of assume that we were just gonna win because we’re Gonzaga.
“Sometimes it’s hard not to fall into the mindset that we just need to get to March. It’s been tough this season. I think that job has made us appreciate as a group every night of winning and what it takes to win and be a good team.”
Saint Mary’s (26-7) was seeded first in the tournament after the teams parted ways in the regular-season series, and Timme said it was odd to wear a blue jersey rather than the usual white. The Gaels were the last team to beat Gonzaga, who is riding a nine-game winning streak in the NCAA Tournament that includes victory over Saint Mary’s to end the regular season.
Both teams will find out their seeds and destinations on Sunday.
Gonzaga made 58% of his shots, while holding Saint Mary’s to 33% shooting. The Bulldogs led up to 37 points and never trailed.
Timme was effective making 8 of 10 shots to lead four Bulldogs by double digits. Malachi Smith scored 14 points, Nolan Hickman had 12 and Julian Strawther had 10. Anton Watson had 10 rebounds.
Timme’s short jumper with 10:18 left put him alone in first place as Gonzaga’s all-time leading scorer. He only had five points before breaking the mark, and his 18 points for the game gave him 2,210 for his career. Frank Burgess held the previous record of 2,196 from 1958 to 1961.
Logan Johnson led the Gaels with 20 points and Alex Ducas scored 10.
Gonzaga took control early, using a nine-point streak to go up 14-4 and held a double-digit lead most of the way from there. The Zags at one point in the first half scored 10 of 12 goals and by half time they had taken full control with a 37-19 lead.
“I told our guys we’ve played 32 games and we’ve played pretty well in 32 of them,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “This one we left. You can credit them. They played well. We didn’t show up.”