Las Vegas, NV – The No. 1-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs made their first appearance in this year’s WCC Tournament a good one. They scored the first nine points of the game and held off a late San Francisco surge to come away with an 81-71 win over the No. 4-seeded Dons (24-9) and advance to the finals of the WCC Tournament. They’ll be facing St. Mary’s as the Gaels led throughout and defeated Santa Clara in the nightcap 69-61.
Gonzaga received strong games from Chet Holmgren, Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard. Holmgren totaled 17 points, eight rebounds, six blocked shots and four steals. Timme led the team in scoring with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Nembhard added 17 points and nine assists against only one turnover. Holmgren (29 minutes) and Timme’s (25 minutes) court time was reduced somewhat by foul trouble, with both having four fouls. Khalil Shabazz led the Dons with 27 points.
Timme scored 12 points in nine first half minutes, sitting after drawing his second personal foul. With Timme on the bench, Holmgren picked up the slack with an impressive half of 11 points, six rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals. Nembhard ran the show to perfection with eight points, eight assists and no turnovers. Five late points, including a last-second three-pointer, from Rasir Bolton helped expand the Zags lead to 47-27 at halftime. The Dons weren’t helped by poor shooting from their two best players, Jamaraee Bouyea and Shabazz. The two shot a combined 3-of-17 from the field and missed all eleven of their three-point attempts. Gonzaga shot 64.5 percent (20-of-31) from the field in the half compared to 30.3 percent for the Dons.
Shabazz started finding his range in the second half, scoring 23 points, making five from deep, and helped the Dons get within 77-64 with four minutes remaining. He then hit two free throws and scored on an acrobatic lay-in after a steal to cut Gonzaga’s lead to nine points. The Dons got within eight points and then had two chances to cut the Zags lead to five but missed two three-pointers that came after steals. Shabazz finished the game with 10-of-25 from the field including 5-of-15 from deep. Bouyea (5 points) never got untracked, shooting 1-of-11 and missing his seven three-point attempts. Julian Rishwain shot it well all game(7-of-11), scoring 20 points and connected on 3-of-5 from deep.
Gonzaga shot well throughout the game and did most of their damage inside. They made only 3-of-13 from deep but connected on 29 of the 42 two-point attempts (69 percent). They killed the Dons in the paint by a margin of 52-18.
St. Mary’s led throughout, holding off a late Bronco run and took away a 75-72 win over Santa Clara (21-11). Tommy Kuhse led the Gaels with a season-high 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting including connecting on all three of his shots from deep. Matthias Tass did some nice work inside for the Gaels adding 18 points and seven rebounds.The Gaels were efficient on offense, shooting 46 percent with 6-of-13 on 3s while holding the Broncos to 38 percent fr0m the field. Santa Clara came back with a 6-0 run to cut the Gaels lead to five points with five minutes left, Santa Clara would within 69-65 and then Keshawn Justice hit a corner three-pointer with 42.8 seconds left to pull the Broncos within one (73-72). Santa Clara had a chance to take the lead but Jalen Williams’ jumper was blocked by Logan Johnson. Johnson them made two free throws to extend the lead to three points. Williams missed a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer that hit the rim. 6-9 senior Josep Vrankic and Justice led Santa Clara with 21 points each. The Broncos will hope for an NIT bid.
Gonzaga (25-3) and St. Mary’s (25-6) will face off at 6pm local time tomorrow in the WCC Championship game. The Bulldogs will be trying to get revenge for their 67-57 loss at St. Mary’s in their final regular season game.