Recap and highlights: Saint Mary's earns hard-fought 69-60 win over Gonzaga for WCC tournament title

Mar. 12—LAS VEGAS — Mitchell Saxen helped Saint Mary's establish a lead in the first half, controlling the paint with his scoring and rebounding.

Aidan Mahaney made sure his work didn't go to waste in the second, scoring 13 points after the break to help the top-seeded Gaels hold off a charge from second-seeded Gonzaga and edge the Bulldogs 69-60 Tuesday night in the West Coast Conference title game.

Gonzaga (25-7) hadn't lost in the WCC title game since 2019, when the Gaels upended the top-seeded Bulldogs 60-47 in Las Vegas. Even with Tuesday's result, the Bulldogs are still projected to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the 26th straight year and will have five days before learning their seed and location.

Mahaney scored 23 total points and knocked down three 3-pointers in the second half to help the Gaels build a game-high 11-point lead with 16 minutes, 54 seconds remaining.

Saint Mary's watched its advantage vanish over the course of the next 10 minutes and Gonzaga took a one-point lead with eight minutes remaining, but Mahaney rescued the Gaels with his shot-making, first knocking down a 3-pointer to make it 58-52 and burying a mid-range attempt that gave Randy Bennett's team a seven-point edge with less than three minutes to play.

Gonzaga was held to its lowest scoring output in a first half all season, trailing 31-27 at the break after committing five turnovers and making just one 3-pointer.

Things improved in the second half, but only slightly, as the Bulldogs played more than 10 minutes without top scorer Graham Ike because of foul trouble.

Saxen scored 19 points and pulled down 15 rebounds for Saint Mary's while Augustas Marciulionis had 13 points to go with eight assists and four rebounds.

Anton Watson led Gonzaga with 18 points to go with seven rebounds while Ryan Nembhard had 13 points, 11 assists and four turnovers.


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First half

19:03 — SMC 2, GU 0: Uncharacteristic turnover from Nembhard and the Gaels take the lead on a backdoor dunk from Saxen.

15:46 — SMC 7, GU 4: Mahaney hits a 3-pointer and Saxen heads to the free throw line after a foul from GU's Ike at the first media timeout.

Tough start for the Zags, who already have four turnovers.

13:08 — SMC 15, GU 6: Ike heads to the bench and the Gaels take advantage on a 6-0 run on drives to the basket. Zags take a timeout. Saxen already up to 10 points, Marciulionis with three assists.

11:56 — SMC 17, GU 10: Nembhard gets GU going with a jumper and assist to Watson at the U12 media timeout.

7:58 — SMC 19, GU 17: Zags keep it close with Ike on the bench. Huff is called for a reach at the U8 media timeout.

Nembhard cut the lead with a 3-pointer. He has five points and five assists.

3:42 — SMC 25, GU 23: Not much separating the two teams in the first half. Ike and Saxen both with two fouls apiece. Zags have the ball on the other side of the U4 media timeout with a chance to tie it up.

Saxen leads SMC with 12 points and eight rebounds, going to be a major problem if he needs to leave the court.

0:58 — SMC 31, GU 27: Mahaney and Marciulionis hit a couple of 3-pointers to regain the lead. Zags briefly tied it up.


Saint Mary's came up with a couple of blocks on the last two possessions to maintain a 31-27 lead over Gonzaga in the WCC tournament championship at the Orelans Arena in Las Vegas.

The Gaels maintained a slight advantage for most of the half with Graham Ike on the bench in foul trouble. Ryan Nembhard (seven points, six assists) and Anton Watson (eight points) have helped GU keep it close.

Mitchell Saxen has been the decisive factor for the Gaels with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also has two fouls. Augustus Marciulionis adds seven points and five assists.

Second half

18:10 — SMC 35, GU 29: Slow start for the Zags, as Ike is called for his third foul to send Saxen to the line.

16:46 — SMC 42, GU 31: Mahaney hits back-to-back 3-pointers and the Gaels are taking control early in the second half. Gonzaga calls a timeout.

Mahaney is 4 of 5 on 3-pointers and has a team-high 16 points.

14:20 — SMC 43, GU 38: Gregg hits the Zags second 3-pointer of the game. On the other end, SMC calls a timeout as Nembhard was going for a heldball. The officials issue a double personal foul on Nembhard and Ducas.

Ike previously picked up his fourth foul.

11:34 — SMC 46, GU 42: Forbes drives for a layup and then is fouled on the following possession he'll shoot two free throws on the other side of the U12 media timeout. Zags cut the lead to two, but can't close the gap.

8:22 — SMC 51, GU 50: Watson makes two free throws and Saxen heads to the bench with four fouls. Tension rising late.

7:40 — SMC 51, GU 50: Mahaney is called for a foul at the U8 media timeout. Zags will shoot free throws with a chance to take the lead.

Few was getting angry with the officials about the 8-4 foul differential and it quickly gets leveled 8-8.

4:57 — SMC 58, GU 52: Mahaney hits a huge 3-pointer after an offensive rebound and the Gaels are on a 7-0 run. Few calls a timeout.

3:48 — SMC 58, GU 54: Ike checks back in and hits a basket. Nembhard is called for his third foul at the U4 media timeout, after the Gaels get yet another offensive rebound. SMC with a 12-3 advantage on the offensive glass.

1:28 — SMC 63, GU 56: Forbes is fouled hard going to the basket and will shoot two free throws. Gaels closing in on the win.

0:44 — SMC 63, GU 56: Couple of empty possessions for GU and the Gaels are likely going to win the WCC champoinship. Snaps Zags streak of four straight titles.

Starting 5: No changes to either teams lineup. Gonzaga: Nembhard (12.9 ppg), Hickman (14.2), Ike (16.7), Watson (14.3) and Gregg (8.9). Saint Mary's: Marciulionis (12.4), Mahaney (13.6), Ducas (10.2), Forbes (5) and Saxen (11.5).


The West Coast Conference doesn't get better than this.

Gonzaga and Saint Mary's will play for the WCC tournament championship tonight at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. on ESPN.

The second-seeded Bulldogs (25-6, No. 17 AP) have been on a tear since losing to SMC at home on Feb. 3. GU has won nine straight including at Kentucky, San Francisco, Saint Mary's and yesterday's WCC semifinal over USF.

Still, the top-seeded Gaels (25-7, No. 21) are out to prove they're the conference's best team.

SMC's only loss since December was at home to Gonzaga on March 2. They beat Santa Clara in yesterday's semifinal and Gaels senior Alex Ducas still had the Zags on his mind.

"Credit to Gonzaga, they're a good squad but I don't think they won the game," said Gaels senior Alex Ducas. "I think we lost the game last time at home."

Round 3 should determine who the better team really is.

Series history

Gonzaga and Saint Mary's have played for 11 of the WCC tournament titles since 2009, with GU winning eight meetings and the last four. The Gaels are the only team in that time to beat GU in the tournament championship game.

Team stats

Individual leaders

Game preview

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Last night's action

Dave Boling: Call him what you will, this season 'little Ben Gregg' has grown into 'Mr. Zag'

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Same as it ever was: Gonzaga thumps USF, rolls into another title game vs. Saint Mary's

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TV take: Gonzaga finds familiar second-half success over San Francisco in WCC tournament win

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Recap and highlights: Gonzaga catches fire in second half, beats San Francisco 89-77 in WCC semifinals

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