Las Vegas, NV – David Stockton is making the most of his final WCC Tournament appearance as he led the Bulldogs to their 17th straight WCC championship game. The senior guard had 21 points to push the Zags to a 70-54 win over Saint Mary’s Monday night.
Gonzaga (27-6) did not have much trouble with Saint Mary’s in their two meetings during the regular season and did not get much of fight in the WCC semifinals either, holding the Gaels (22-11) to 37 percent shooting.
Gary Bell Jr. added 14 points and Sam Dower Jr. helped with 12 points and nine rebounds. Dower once again was 100 percent from the foul-line by making all eight of his free throws. Stockton also had six rebounds and four assists for Gonzaga, which will play for its fourth WCC tournament title in five years.
The Gaels were led by Brad Waldow‘s 14 points and Stephen Holt’s 13. The Gaels struggled against Gonzaga’s tough defensive pressure that neutralized Saint Mary’s guards and forced them to throw the ball away and attempt difficult shots. The Gaels did not score in double figures until their junior center Waldow scored a power lay-up with 5:32 left in the first half. Eventually the Gaels made a few more shots in the closing minutes, by going 9-for-23 from the floor to only trail 31-20 at halftime.
To start the second half Saint Mary’s made a quick run to pull within six at 33-27 on a Kerry Carter 3-pointer. However, Gonzaga added more defensive pressure and intensity that was brought on by a Stockton 3-pointer from long range, that pushed the Zag lead back to 13. The Bulldogs never looked back and closed out the victory.
Monday night’s semi-final game was the sixth straight time that Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s have faced each other in the WCC tournament. However, this time both teams were playing in the semifinals instead of the championship game for the first time during that six year stretch.
In the other semi-final game BYU’s Tyler Haws overcame a tough shooting night to score eight of his 24 points in overtime, helping BYU defeat a motivated San Francisco team 79-77.
Haws who is the WCC player of the year, struggled to get open looks and uncontested shot attempts throughout most of the game, because of San Francisco’s defense. The Dons defense forced Haws to shoot 5-of-19, but he made all 14 of his free throws and almost tied Sam Dower Jr. ‘s WCC tourney single game free throw record that was set on Saturday’s quarterfinal. However, other Cougar teammates picked up the pace and helped guide BYU into the championship game against Gonzaga.
BYU’s “Mr. Everything” Kyle Collinsworth had 18 points and 12 rebounds and Anson Winder had 14 points for the Cougars (23-10).
San Francisco (21-11) battled from deficits of 7, 6, 5, 4 several times to either tie the game or take the lead. Junior guard Matt Glover hit a huge 3-pointer with 28 seconds left in overtime, which gave the Dons a shot to tie after Winder only made 1-of-2 free throws, but sophomore guard Avry Holmes lost control of the ball temporarily, which forced him to take a well defended 3-point jumper just before the buzzer that bounced off the back rim.
Senior power forward Cole Dickerson led the Dons with 20 points and Glover added 14.
A few questions come into to play for both BYU and San Francisco’s ability to continue in the post season. Did tonight’s win help BYU secure a strong enough resume to get into the NCAA tourney if they are unable to gain the WCC’s automatic berth? And did the Dons’ 21 wins and impressive showing in the WCC tourney earn them a possible NIT bid?
Only time will tell, but both teams have made a strong case for additional post-season basketball.
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