Zags rout Saint Mary’s for WCC title, NCAA berth
LAS VEGAS (AP)—Patty Mills had been in this gambling mecca long enough to figure out the odds. Even if Saint Mary’s star point guard was at his inimitable best, his Gaels were a long shot to derail deeply talented, tournament-tested Gonzaga.
With Mills nowhere even close to good, the Zags rolled on to bigger stages and better opponents in another NCAA tournament.
Josh Heytvelt scored 17 points, Micah Downs added 12 points and 12 rebounds, and No. 12 Gonzaga romped to its 11th consecutive NCAA appearance with an 83-58 victory over Saint Mary’s on Monday night in the West Coast Conference final.
Matt Bouldin had 14 points and seven assists for the relentless Zags (26-5) in a win showcasing the depth and balance that could make them a maddening March opponent. Nobody needs to tell Mills, who went 2-for-16 in his second game back from a broken hand.
“I don’t think we were ready at all, (and) you can’t come into a game against Gonzaga with a bad effort,” said Mills, who had been out since Jan. 29. “They knew what they were playing for, and we had no idea.”
With six Zags scoring in double figures and playing even better on defense, they followed up their perfect regular-season conference slate with a second blowout win in the WCC tournament, giving them 19 victories in their last 20 games.
“If we play like that in the NCAA tournament, we’re going to go a really, really, really long way,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We’re playing better than we have all year. … When a team puts it together like that over the course of a weekend, it’s a beautiful sight to see.”
Gonzaga has won eight of the last 12 WCC tournaments, but few were so smoothly conquered. The Zags have won 16 straight conference games, and they’ve beaten Saint Mary’s in 26 of their last 29 meetings.
The Gaels (25-6) finished with a season-worst 19-for-66 shooting, and Mills managed just five points while missing all seven of his 3-point attempts. The one-sided loss endangers the Gaels’ hopes for the first back-to-back NCAA tournament bids in school history.
Diamon Simpson had 19 points and nine rebounds for the Gaels, who must hope the NCAA selection committee appreciates their potential enough to overlook a poor performance in their biggest game of the season.
“We’ll just say some prayers on Saturday night,” said Omar Samhan, who had 17 points and nine rebounds. “God, I’d love to be in the tournament again … but we wouldn’t have to worry about it at all if we had taken care of business tonight.”
There are no such concerns for Gonzaga, which lost the WCC tournament final to San Diego last year. The Zags’ only blemish since New Year’s Day is a nonconference loss to No. 4 Memphis.
“I think we’re peaking at the right time,” Bouldin said. “I thought our momentum was great coming into this weekend. We have eight or nine guys who can score 20 in a night. I think that’s our strength by far, and we all play together on defense, too.”
In other conference tournament championship games:
At Albany, N.Y., Kenny Hasbrouck scored 19 points and Siena successfully defended its Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament title with a 77-70 win over Niagara.
Ryan Rossiter added 16 points and 14 rebounds as the Saints (26-7) clinched their program’s fifth NCAA tournament berth. Siena also completed its season with a 17-0 record on its home court.
Tyrone Lewis scored 22 for the Purple Eagles (26-8), who will settle for a NIT berth.
At Chattanooga, Tenn., Keyron Sheard scored 18 points and Chattanooga beat College of Charleston 80-69 to win the Southland tournament title and earn its 10th NCAA tournament bid.
The Mocs (18-16) last appeared in the tournament in 2005, losing in the opening round to Wake Forest.
Tony White Jr. led the Cougars (26-8) with 31 points.
At Richmond, Va., Eric Maynor had 25 points and eight assists and Virginia Commonwealth beat George Mason 71-50 to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship.
Larry Sanders added 18 points, and set championship game records with 20 rebounds and seven blocks for the Rams (24-9), who stunned Duke in the first round of the NCAAs two years ago.
The defending CAA champion Patriots (22-10) trailed 30-19 at halftime and did little to slow Maynor, the two-time CAA player of the year, or the disruptive Sanders, who had four blocks in the first half and largely shut down George Mason’s inside game.
Dre Smith led George Mason with 23 points.