For the fifth year in a row, Gonzaga and St. Mary's battled it out for a WCC title and a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Unlike the previous two installments, however, this one wasn't close. The No. 1 Bulldogs got a balanced effort and dominated the Gaels, 65-51, to make their case for a top seed in the Big Dance.
Early in the first half, Gonzaga showed off why so many have the Zags currently pegged as a No. 1 seed, displaying a stunningly impressive inside-outside combination.
Elias Harris, Kelly Olynyk and Sam Dower combined for 27 points as Saint Mary's looked overwhelmed on the inside, but the Zags' point guard duo was just as dominant. Kevin Pangos added four points and five rebounds, while David Stockton chipped in three points, two assists and three steals off the bench.
But despite all that, and despite Gonzaga's scorching 64.0 percent mark from the field, and despite early struggles from stud point guard Matthew Dellavedova, St. Mary's weathered the storm and trailed by just nine at halftime.
Unfortunately for the Gaels, the second half was simply more of the same.
Gonzaga went on a 15-5 run in the first seven minutes to extend the lead to 53-34. The Zags never looked back.
The final 20 minutes were essentially a coast for the No. 1 team in the nation, but that didn't stop David Stockton and Olynyk from providing this rim-rattling highlight:
St. Mary's got 19 points from Stephen Holt, but it was far from enough and the Gaels will now have to sweat it out as a member of the bubble for the next week.
Pre-game, Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Eisenberg gave us an idea of Gonzaga's considerable advantage in the stands:
Courtside here at Orleans Arena (aka Spokane South) for Gonzaga-Saint Mary's. Early estimate: 80 percent Zags fans. Conservatively.— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) March 12, 2013
The Bill Walton parody account, meanwhile, was more interested with Olynyk's long, flowing locks, which bare a striking resemblance to a certain superhero with a hammer:
Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk is like a young Thor aggressively throwing his hammer into the heart of Saint Mary's Gaels with reckless abandon!— Not Bill Walton (@NotBillWalton) March 12, 2013
So, there's that. But back to the hard court. At halftime, Sports Illustrated's Andy Glockner noted the incredible statistical discrepancies in the nine-point game:
Gonzaga shot 64% FG in 1H, and it was an easy 64%. Gaels took 16 of 28 FGAs from 3, only made 3. Pretty amazing it's only 9 pts at the H— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) March 12, 2013
As Gonzaga pulled away in the second half, however, much of the talk began to surround the Bulldogs' potential. CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello made his opinion pretty clear:
I think I get asked about Gonzaga on the radio more than any other team. Always, "Are they finally a legit Final Four threat?" Answer: YES.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 12, 2013
Terrific inside play, unselfish, so many weapons, chemistry, limit TOs, knock down shots, defend. Anything else? RT @mikechay: based on what— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 12, 2013
The Seattle Times' Jerry Brewer noticed an important difference in this year's squad:
When this Gonzaga team bears down on defense, wow. The Zags are so much more physical than they've been in the past.— Jerry Brewer (@JerryBrewer) March 12, 2013
ESPN concluded by showing just how dominant Gonzaga have been.
Gonzaga wins WCC tourney for 12th time and will play in NCAA Tournament for 15th time. Zags have won 14 straight— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 12, 2013