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Alex Ducas scores 18 points in first half to lead Saint Mary's over Santa Clara 79-65 in WCC semifinal

Mar. 11—LAS VEGAS — Alex Ducas wasn't one of the three Saint Mary's players named to the All-West Coast Conference First Team last week, but the senior guard was the most valuable player wearing a Gaels uniform during the early stretches of Monday's conference tournament semifinal against Santa Clara.

Ducas carried his Saint Mary's teammates through a sluggish first half against Santa Clara, scoring 18 points on six 3-pointers in the opening frame, and the top-seeded Gaels continued to build their lead in the second half of a 79-65 victory over the fourth-seeded Broncos at the Orleans Arena.

The Gaels (25-7) will move on to Tuesday's WCC championship game to face the winner of Monday's nightcap between second-seeded Gonzaga (24-6) and San Francisco (23-9).

Santa Clara limited Ducas in the second half, but it came at the cost of allowing other Gaels to find their offensive groove.

Conference Player of the Year Augustas Marciulionis finished with 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting after sitting much of the first half due to foul trouble, and All-WCC guard Aidan Mahaney had eight points in the second after just two in the first to finish with 10 for the Gaels.

Mitchell Saxen, the WCC Defensive Player of the Year, had nine points and eight rebounds before fouling out, while forward Mason Forbes finished with a season-high 16 points on 8 of 9 shooting.

Ducas' six 3-pointers in the first half tied a school record for most 3s in a half and the Australia native made seven total 3s — one shy of a WCC Tournament record — to score a team-high 21 points on 7 of 11 shooting.

Saint Mary's pulled away late in the first half when Ducas hit a pair of 3s to help the Gaels go on an 8-0 run that gave them a 31-23 lead. Randy Bennett's team extended the lead to a game-high 19 points with 3 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the second half.

Carlos Marshall Jr. had a game-high 26 points for the Broncos, but All-WCC First Team wing Adama Alpha-Bal was limited to just two points on 1 of 7 shooting.