Las Vegas, NV – The No. 1-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs battled the Saint Mary’s Gaels in the championship game of the WCC Tournament at an almost sold-out Orleans Arena. The two teams have combined to win every WCC Tournament since the 2008-09 season, with the Bulldogs winning the title ten times and the Gaels three times. With relative off-nights from Chet Holmgren and Drew Timme, Gonzaga needed contributions from other players to come away with the victory. That’s exactly what happened in their 82-69 win over the Gaels.
Point guard and tournament MVP, Andrew Nembhard continued his excellent play with 19 points (3-of-5 3s), seven assists and only one turnover. Julian Strawther added 16 points, connecting on all three of his shots from distance. Rasir Bolton made some important second half baskets and finished with 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Timme finished with ten points and four rebounds while Holmgren, battling foul trouble, finished with eight points and eight rebounds. Logan Johnson led the Gaels with 21 points and Tommy Kuhse added 15.
The first half was close early on with the teams tied at 14 midway through the half. From there, Gonzaga went on a 15-4 run highlighted by ten points, including two 3s from the 6-7 forward Strawther and four points from 6-8 reserve Anton Watson. Strawther later hit another three to extend the Zag lead to ten points (34-24). The half closed with Gonzaga in front 36-26. The Bulldogs had the lead with limited help from their two leading scorers, Holmgren and Timme, who scored two points each. Holmgren was only 1-of-7 from the floor, missing his four three-point attempts. Strawther led the way with 13 points, connecting 4-of-5 shots including 3-of-3 from deep. Watson contributed with six points and five rebounds while point guard Nembhard added seven points, four assists and no turnovers. Kuhse continued his fine play at the event with nine points to lead Saint Mary’s at the break.
Saint Mary’s stayed close and cut Gonzaga’s lead to 52-50 on two free throws by Johnson with nine minutes remaining. With the score 54-50 Holmgren drew his fourth personal foul and had to go to the bench. The Gaels got within two points three times but a Bolton three-pointer put the Zags up 61-54. Bolton then connected on a short jumper, was fouled, and made the foul shot to extend Gonzaga’s lead to nine points. A Nembhard three-pointer brought the lead to 68-57 and got the Bulldog fans on their feet. Gonzaga coasted to the win from there.
The stats were fairly even with the main difference in shooting. Gonzaga (26-3) shot 58 percent from the field compared to 47 percent for Saint Mary’s (25-7). The Zags connected on 8-of-16 3s while the Gaels shot 5-of-16 from deep.
The All-Tournament team consisted of the MVP Nembhard along with Timme and Holmgren of Gonzaga, Kuhse (St. Mary’s) and Khalil Shabazz (USF).