Gonzaga Bulldogs once again did what they needed to and came away from Moraga with a 89-82 win over the St. Mary’s Gaels. The win by the Zags snaps St. Mary’s five-game winning streak, while extending their own to five.
It was a lost opportunity for the Gaels, who, despite their gaudy 15-3 record do not really have a signature win. An early season victory over a decent San Diego State team and a road win over Oregon (who got hammered at home by ASU last night) are the closest things. They have to do something magical - like beat Gonzaga on the road - to have a shot at securing an NCAA bid. Despite all of the talk about the improvement of the WCC, they are still the 14th - ranked conference in terms of RPI and are still a one-bid league unless someone can knock off the Zags.
Elias Harris was spectacular against the Gaels, while Matt Bouldin was steady down the stretch. Steven Gray had probably his best game of the year all-around, collecting 14 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists. Despite some shaky foul shooting, the Zags hung on. Shooting a WCC worst 66% from the foul line, Gonzaga is eventually going to be caught by this. They have the shooters to be at 75% and need to get there to have any real aspirations of repeating last year’s Sweet Sixteen appearance. In a rare statistical feat, the Zags shot better from the field (60%) than the charity stripe (55%).
They also outrebounded St. Mary’s 45-25. Six players logged substantial minutes, and although the trio of Kelly Olynyk, Manny Arop and Will Foster only saw 15 total minutes of action, combined for 10 points and 6 boards.
Gonzaga has tamed the wild portion of its schedule and barring something completely unforseen, can expect to be summoned to the dance floor in March. Whether or not they bring a partner from the WCC remains to be seen.