Top-ranked Gonzaga eyes 7th straight WCC tourney title

Mar 12, 2019, 11:37 AM

A win over Saint Mary's on Tuesday night would be No. 1 Gonzaga's 22nd straight. (AP)...

A win over Saint Mary's on Tuesday night would be No. 1 Gonzaga's 22nd straight. (AP)


Top-ranked Gonzaga has notched a third straight 30-win campaign.

Next on the agenda is claiming a seventh straight West Coast Conference Tournament title.

No. 1 Gonzaga blows out Pepperdine 100-74 in WCC semifinals

The Bulldogs (30-2) look to bag that title and also attempt to win their 22nd straight contest when they face second-seeded Saint Mary’s on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Top-seeded Gonzaga had no trouble routing Pepperdine 100-74 in Monday’s semifinals. The Gaels beat San Diego 69-62 in the other tilt to reach the tournament final for the eighth time in the past 11 seasons.

“It was a good team effort and we’re happy to get out of it with a win,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said in the postgame press conference.

The Gaels (21-11) are on the NCAA Tournament bubble and may need to at least give the Bulldogs a battle, something they were unable to do in the two regular-season battles.

Gonzaga won the matchups by an average of 31 points and steamrolled Saint Mary’s 94-46 on Feb. 9 in Spokane, Wash. The 48-point margin of defeat was the fourth-worst in Gaels’ history and the only time they have lost by 30 or more points during coach Randy Bennett’s 18 seasons.

The Bulldogs looked well-oiled in Monday’s win over Pepperdine as they shot 59.7 percent from the field and led by as many as 41 points.

Sophomore guard Zach Norvell Jr. was the high scorer with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting.

“When guys are clicking, we’re on the same page, and just sharing the ball,” Norvell said in the postgame press conference. He said that head coach Mark Few “yells at us a lot – ‘Just make the right basketball play.’ You’re rewarded when you play the game the right way. And I think that’s something we’ve been trying to do a lot.”

Gonzaga received a boost by having junior forward Killian Tillie on the floor for the first time since he partially tore a ligament in his right foot against San Francisco on Feb. 7.

Tillie went 3-for-3 from 3-point range in the first half. He finished with nine points and six rebounds in 15 minutes.

“The team is really deep,” Tillie said in a postgame interview with ESPN. “Everybody can score. That’s what makes this team very dangerous.

“Everybody shares the ball. That’s what makes this team so great.”

Bulldogs junior power forward Brandon Clarke blocked two shots to extend his school record to 101. He also had 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

The Gaels are making a late charge at securing an NCAA berth with eight wins in their last 10 games. Both losses during the stretch were to the Zags.

Junior guard Jordan Ford scored 21 points against San Diego for his 20th 20-point game of the season. He averaged just 13.5 points and made 11-of-30 shots in the two contests against Gonzaga.

Sophomore forward Malik Fitts recorded 19 points and 12 rebounds against the Toreros for his second double-double in four games and sixth of the season.

“I know the guys, the coaching staff, everybody is going to be 100 percent dialed in and ready to compete,” Fitts said after the contest in reference to a third meeting with Gonzaga.

Saint Mary’s shot a combined 33 percent in the two losses to Gonzaga and made just 6 of 28 3-point attempts.

–Field Level Media

Gonzaga remains No. 1 in latest AP Top 25 poll

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Top-ranked Gonzaga eyes 7th straight WCC tourney title