No. 21 Saint Mary’s ends No. 17 Gonzaga’s monopoly of WCC title

Mar 12, 2024, 8:41 PM

Gonzaga Ryan Nembhard Saint Mary's...

Mason Forbes of Saint Mary's and Ryan Nembhard of the Gonzaga battle for the ball on March 12, 2024. (David Becker/Getty Images)

(David Becker/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Aidan Mahaney scored 23 points, Mitchell Saxen had 19 points and 15 rebounds, and No. 21 Saint Mary’s led nearly the entire way to beat No. 17 Gonzaga 69-60 on Tuesday night and interrupt the Bulldogs’ stranglehold on the West Coast Conference Tournament title.

Saint Mary’s Gaels 69, Gonzaga Bulldogs 60: Box score

Gonzaga (25-7) had won four WCC championships in a row and 10 of 11, with Saint Mary’s in 2019 the one year the Bulldogs didn’t claim the trophy. The Gaels earned the conference’s automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament, but both sides were certain to make the 68-team field even before tipoff.

The sharp-shooting Mahaney was a major reason the Gaels (26-7) prevailed. He made 9 of 15 shots, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. Also for Saint Mary’s, Saxen produced a double-double despite battling foul trouble, and WCC player of the year Augustas Marciulionis scored 13 points.

Anton Watson led the Zags with 18 points. Ryan Nembhard finished with 13 points and 11 assists, and Graham Ike had 10 points even though he played only 20 minutes because of foul trouble.

College Hoops Guide: WSU, UW, Zags and more in conference tourneys

The game was close throughout — Saint Mary’s largest lead was 11 points — but the Gaels managed to stay in front almost throughout. Gonzaga used an eight-point run to finally take the lead with 7:41 left, but that advantage lasted only 22 seconds and was answered by a seven-point spurt by the Gaels.

Both teams came in surging. Saint Mary’s now has won 23 of 25 games, and the Gaels ended Gonzaga’s nine-game winning streak.

They also, at least briefly, ended the Bulldogs’ domination of this series. Gonzaga had won 26 of the past 32 meetings, and had been the Gaels’ nemesis in WCC championship games in winning three of the previous four against Saint Mary’s.

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No. 21 Saint Mary’s ends No. 17 Gonzaga’s monopoly of WCC title