The streak is over.
With their 67-60 win over the University of San Francisco, the St. Mary’s Gaels won the West Coast Conference regular season title outright. It was the first time since the 1999-2000 season that a team other than Gonzaga won the title outright (last year St. Mary’s and Gonzaga shared the title, but St. Mary’s lost the WCC tournament final to Gonzaga and was relegated to the NIT).
In 2000, it was Pepperdine. Since then, St. Mary’s (25-5, 14-2), along with every other team in the WCC, has been left playing second fiddle to the 'Zags.
For the Gaels, it was their first outright title since 1989. Senior Clint Steindl led the scoring for St. Mary’s with 16 points. Fellow senior Rob Jones also put up 14 points and 14 rebounds. Matthew Dellavedova, who has been battling an ankle injury, and is a Bob Cousy candidate, put up 14 points to got along with six assists.
At one point, the Gaels were 11-0 in conference, and there was chatter of them running the table in the WCC. But then they lost three of four games (Gonzaga, Loyola Marymount and Murray State), and all of a sudden their grasp on the WCC title was in doubt.
St. Mary’s got help when San Francisco beat Gonzaga. The Gaels then managed to take care of their own business, beating Portland before beating San Francisco.
Now the Gaels seem to be picking up steam again just at the right time as they head into the WCC tournament this weekend. Regardless of what happens in Vegas, though, they are all but a lock to be included in the NCAA Tournament.