Crumpacker - Zags best Gaels in #WCChoops Title Tilt - Mar 11, 2017
News alert: Top seed Gonzaga won the WCC Tournament championship Tuesday night by defeating second seed Saint Mary's 39-18 at the Orleans Arena. That's no alternative fact. It's as real as a slam dunk. Sure, the final score was 74-56, but the once-beaten Zags really won this game with a dominating first half that had the Gaels just as frustrated as BYU had been the night before in its semifinal against Saint Mary's. What a difference a day made for the Gaels, flying high on Monday and shot down on Tuesday. Playing a 32-1 team will do that to an opponent. 'We were crazy efficient in that first half as far as what we were doing with the ball,'' Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. 'We were aggressive. We played outstanding in the first half, almost flawless with our defensive performance.'' In striking out to that 39-18 lead, the Zags held Saint Mary's to a season-low for points in a half on 6 of 28 shooting and their defensive pressure forced the normally steady Gaels into 10 turnovers. Saint Mary's ended up outscoring Gonzaga in the second half by a 38-35 count, but by then, the damage had been done. 'We had 10 turnovers in the first half; we usually have that many for a game,'' Gaels guard Joe Rahon (6'2''-G-93) said. 'It's really on us to take care of the ball. It's something we take pride in. A lot was on me, too. I got in the lane and wasn't making the right reads in the paint. We got stagnant and took some bad shots. That's a recipe for disaster.'' Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett was in such a funk after the game that he declined to make an opening statement upon arriving for the press conference. He did warm to the moment a little later, however. 'We were so poor, I can't even tell you,'' he said. 'In the first half, there wasn't a phase we were good at. That's about as bad a half as we've played all year.'' Saint Mary's did not win 28 games this season by accident, though. The Gaels came out in the second half determined to make amends, as Few told his players they would. 'Saint Mary's is an excellent team,'' Few said. 'We knew they wouldn't quit. Sure enough, they had a valiant comeback. We settled down and got enough of a cushion to win the thing.'' Midway through the second half, the Gaels put on a little burst that brought them to within 51-46 on Evan Fitzner (6'10''-C)'s 3-point shot at 10:10. In the following couple of minutes, however, Przemyslaw Karnowski (7'1''-C-93) blocked a shot by Rahon at the glass and scored on a layup and was fouled. The big man missed the free throw but 7-foot teammate Zach Collins (7'0''-F-97) deftly grabbed the offensive board and scored on a put-back for 59-48. That was followed by a steal and a layup and successful free throw on the foul by Nigel Williams-Goss (6'3''-G-94), the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Just like that, it was 61-48 with 5:22 to go and the outcome was assured - just as it had been at the end of the first half. In another masterful performance, Williams-Goss had 22 points and a fondness for the number 6, that being his totals for rebounds, assists and steals. 'This is a basketball game. There's so many aspects other than scoring,'' he said. 'To win games you have to do it on both ends of the floor. I was trying to make as many plays as I could. We're at our best when we are on attack mode. We try to be aggressive for 40 minutes and keep the pressure on. It wasn't just me and Przemek. It's the entire team. We have so many weapons on the floor.'' At 32-1 and champion of the WCC, Gonzaga will now wait until Sunday when the NCAA Tournament selections are announced. If the Zags are not one of four No. 1 seeds, something is very wrong in that Selection Committee room. 'We're 32-1,'' Few said, as if anyone needed reminding. 'This team has been exceptional all year. They stepped up and met every challenge. We've been good from November 10 to March 7 and haven't taken any nights off. These guys are going to show up and fight. Beat Saint Mary's three times? Saint Mary's is an excellent team with size, poise and skills. They are very worthy. They are diabolical with their reads on the ball screen.'' At 28-4, with three of those losses to Gonzaga, Saint Mary's is rightfully expecting an NCAA bid that it did not receive last year. With a vastly improved post player in 6-foot-11 Jock Landale, the most efficient guard tandem in the conference in Rahon and Emmett Naar (6'1''-G-94) and sharpshooters in Calvin Hermanson (6'6''-F) and Fitzner, the Gaels are a team with the potential to give an NCAA Tournament opponent fits. Just ask BYU how much fun it is playing Saint Mary's. 'I feel more comfortable this year'' about receiving a bid, Bennet said. 'Not many teams have done what we've done this year. We have been a really good team all year. In a championship game, to come out and play like that, I won't sleep well tonight. These guys won't, either. Last year after this game (a loss to Gonzaga), I thought we played well. This year we did not play well in the first half in any phase of the game.'' That's why this championship game was over at halftime, for all practical purposes. Gonzaga is just too good to give back every bit of a 21-point lead. Some, yes. All, no.
WCC Tournament Final: Gonzaga - Saint Mary's 74-56 WCC Tournament Semifinals: Gonzaga - Santa Clara 77-68 Saint Mary's - BYU 81-50
Copyright (c) 1998-2017 Eurobasket Inc. Disclaimer
Do not copy, redistribute, publish or otherwise exploit information that you download from the site !
Do not encumber, license, modify, publish, sell, transfer or transmit, or in any way exploit, any of the
content of the site, nor will you attempt to do so.