LAS VEGAS (AP) — Drew Thiem scored 18 points to become Gonzaga’s all-time leading scorer to lead past No. 1 in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game on Tuesday night. 9 Bulldogs, beating No. 16 Saint Mary’s 77-51.
The Zags (28-5) continued their WCC dominance by winning their fourth straight tournament and 10th in 11 years, the only exception being St. Mary’s in 2019. Gonzaga has won 21 tournament titles.
St. Mary’s (26-7) was actually seeded first in the tournament, and the teams split the regular season series. The Gaels were the last team to beat Gonzaga, which snapped a nine-game winning streak in the NCAA Tournament, including a win over St. Mary’s, to end the regular season.
Both teams will find out their seeding and destinations on Sunday.
Gonzaga shot 58% while St. Mary’s shot 33%. The Bulldogs led by as many as 37 points and never trailed.
Thieme was efficient, making 8 of 10 shots, leading four Bulldogs to double figures. Malachi Smith scored 14 points, Nolan Hickman – 12, Julian Strother – 10. Anton Watson had 10 rebounds.
Tim’s short jumper at 10:18 moved him into first place as the all-time leading scorer in St. Mary’s history. He is just five points shy of the mark, and his 18 points per game gave him 2,210 for his career. The previous record of 2,196 was held by Frank Burgess from 1958-61.
Logan Johnson led the Gaels with 20 points and Alex Dukas added 10.
Gonzaga took control early, using a nine-point run to go up 14-4 and maintained a double-digit lead most of the way from there. The Zags hit 10 of 12 field goals at one point in the first half, and by halftime they were outscored 37-19.
THE BIG PICTURE
Gonzaga: Now the real pressure is on Gonzaga, who has made many deep runs in the NCAA Tournament but is still searching for that elusive national championship. Until that happens, critics will say that the WCC school is not on the same level as those from the power conference. The Zags have to prove them wrong.
Saint Mary’s: Saint Mary’s nearly dropped all 26 points in Monday’s semifinal as the Gaels struggled against BYU’s press. Gonzaga threw a press on St. Mary’s, and while it didn’t lead to transition baskets for the Bulldogs, it slowed down the Gaels’ offense. Saint Mary’s will need to figure out how to get better against the press or it will be a problem in the NCAA tournament.
Gonzaga has the right to a No. 2 seed and entered the game ranked ninth in the NET rankings, a metric the NCAA committee uses when selecting the field. Although St. Mary’s is only one spot ahead of the Bulldogs, the Gaels are likely looking at a 5-6 seed.
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