Season-finale showdown: No. 1 Gonzaga visits No. 23 Saint Mary's
Only No. 23 Saint Mary's stands in the way of an undefeated West Coast Conference regular season for No. 1 Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs (24-2, 13-0 WCC) will also be looking for their 18th consecutive overall victory when they battle the Gaels (23-6, 11-3) on Saturday night at Moraga, Calif.
Saint Mary's is 15-0 at home this season and has won 17 straight in their on-campus facility since losing to Gonzaga 73-59 last season.
In fact, beating the Bulldogs has been a major problem for the Gaels. Their 74-58 loss at Spokane, Wash., earlier this month was their seventh straight in the series and 22nd in the past 26 meetings.
Saint Mary's did at least make Gonzaga sweat. It trailed just 66-58 with 3:10 left, but the Zags scored the final eight points.
Saturday's contest is meaningless for both teams as far as the upcoming WCC tourney. The Bulldogs have clinched the No. 1 seed and the Gaels wrapped up the No. 2 seed with Thursday's 60-46 road victory over San Diego.
"This is a really good win. We needed to get it," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said afterward. "It was a key game. Our guys were really dialed in. We'll take it."
Bennett insisted that only the Toreros were on his team's minds as they posted their third straight victory.
"We weren't even thinking about Gonzaga tonight," he said. "It was all about San Diego. Our guys were ready to play."
Logan Johnson scored 14 points to lead the Gaels. He has a WCC-leading 61 steals and averages 11.1 points per game. Matthias Tass leads Saint Mary's in scoring (12.4) and rebounding (6.3) while Tommy Kuhse (11.3) and Alex Ducas (10.4) also score in double digits.
Kuhse scored 16 points in the first meeting with Gonzaga on a night in which Drew Timme led the way for the Bulldogs with 25 points and eight rebounds.
Timme flirted with a triple-double with 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists during Thursday's 89-73 road win over San Francisco.
Chet Holmgren also had a huge game with 21 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots as Gonzaga won its 12th straight road game, the longest active streak in the nation.
The 20-point effort was the sixth of the season for Holmgren, who has collected 10 or more rebounds in seven of the past eight games. He is averaging 12.6 boards during the span and has season averages of 14.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots.
"He makes a huge difference," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of Holmgren. "He's really understanding the plan and cleaning up all our miscues and we're driving guys down into him. He's a really, really smart basketball player."
Timme leads the Bulldogs in scoring (18.1) and ranks second in rebounding (6.4).
Gonzaga led by as many as 20 points and never trailed in the victory over the Dons, who are currently forecasted to make the NCAA Tournament's 68-team field.
"San Francisco is a terrific team," Few said afterward. "They just look, feel, play like an NCAA Tournament team, actually like one you play in the second game of the weekend.
"For us to come in here and be able to score it and defend like we did, especially in the second half, that's a really good sign for us."
Gonzaga point guard Andrew Nembhard scored 17 points against the Dons. He is averaging 19 points, seven assists and five rebounds over the past two games. Nembhard averages 11.1 points and a team-best 5.7 assists.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 26, 2022