Las Vegas, NV – Gonzaga broke open a close game in the second half to win the West Coast Conference tournament championship with an 84-66 win over St. Mary’s in front of 7,210 fans at the Orleans Arena. The Zags scored the first seven points of the second half to take an eight-point lead and never looked back. Gonzaga received solid play from inside and out. 6-10 freshman center Drew Timme scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half while 6-5 Joel Ayayi scored 13 of his 17 points and 6-4 Armon Gilder scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half. Corey Kispert added 12 points and 6-11 sophomore center Filip Petrusev contributed 10 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. Jordan Ford led the Gaels with 27 points, making all 11 of his free throws, while Malik Fitts added 17 points and nine rebounds in the loss.
The Zags outscored St. Mary’s 43-25 in the second half led by their backcourt of Ayayi and Gilder. The closest the Gaels could get was six points after a Jock Perry basket with 11:55 remaining. From there the Zags went on a 22-6 run to give them a 22-point lead after Killian Tillie’s (9 points) jumper with 3:05 remaining. Gonzaga dominated the boards throughout the game, ending with a 36-21 rebounding advantage including 13-3 on the offensive end. They had a 48-22 edge in points in the paint, a 32-7 advantage in bench scoring and only committed six turnovers in the game.
Gonzaga’s 6-10 freshman center Timme scored nine points over a 2:19 span late in the first half to help the Zags to a 42-41 lead at the half. The Gaels’ Tommy Kuhse (10 points) had connected on a 3-pointer with 3:38 remaining to give his team a 37-31 lead before Timme went on his streak which resulted in an 11-1 Gonzaga run. St. Mary’s Daniel Fotu (5 points) made an old-fashioned three-point play to cut the deficit to one point at the break.
Ford and Fitts combined to score 34 of St. Mary’s 41 first half points. Ford connected on 7-of-11 shots including two 3s in scoring 20 points while the 6-8 Fitts, coming off a poor shooting game in their semifinal win, added 14 points hitting 4-of-5 from deep. Timme finished the half with 15 points on 7-of-8 from the field over 13 minutes of action. He was helped by fellow center Petrusev who totaled eight points and six rebounds over ten minutes. Both teams shot over 55 percent from the field with the Gaels making 7-of-11 3s while the Zags only connected on 1-of-4 from deep. The Zags had a big advantage inside, not only in scoring but on the boards where they enjoyed a 17-7 advantage.
Gonzaga’s Ayayi was named the Most Valuable Player of the event. He was joined on the All-Tournament Team by teammates Petrusev and Timme along with St. Mary’s Ford and Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross.