Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Gonzaga's size, strength, and ability to push the pace kept Saint Mary's from ever sustaining a threat to the Zag's lead. The lack of a tertiary scorer and foul trouble also didn't help. Or the turnovers.
What doomed Saint Mary's to another close-but-not-quite contest against Gonzaga? Let's see:
- Gary Bell, Jr. drilled every open look he got from three-point range.
- Mike Hart outhustled everybody every time there was a loose ball, as his 5 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and countless other effort plays demontrated.
- Mitchell Young spent the entire game figuring out how to limit Kelly Olynyk without fouling out.
- The Gaels attempted five free throws all game, and outside of Matthew Dellavedova and Stephen Holt, they shot 31% from the field.
There are more reasons, but that list above would likely doom any team. This was the game of the week for we mid-major fans, as well as for the players involved in this game, and it was obvious just how badly Saint Mary's wanted this early on.
Evident in the wild shots being taken on offense, and evident in the two early fouls that Beau Levesque took in the early going - one a Flagrant 1 for giving the forearm shiver to Kevin Pangos, and another for deciding that fronting Elias Harris in the post by grabbing a fistful of jersey was a good idea.
Fortunately for everyone involved, though, head coach Randy Bennett got his team settled down and the first half turned into a fast paced offensive performance by both teams. Dellavedova picked up his second foul with 6:38 left after a defensive rotation left him defending Olynyk in the post and he oversold the charge into a pretty ugly flop, but he still managed to play out of his mind.
Delly realized he needed to take over the last five minutes of the first half, and he wound up finishing with 19 points including 5-7 on threes. The team started hitting a rhythm, and St. Mary's fans were excited about the three-pointer that gave them their first lead. So excited, in fact, that they totally missed Mitchell Young getting called for his third foul with 1.5 seconds left in the half by going for an ill-advised steal on the ensuing in-bounds pass.
I was surprised to see Young open the second half on the court with his three fouls, but that was rendered moot with two easy misses (layup and dunk), and Gonzaga used those and other slip ups to start pressing the pace and scoring and drawing fouls quickly in transition - the Zags went on a 20-4 run to open the half, putting some distance between themselves and the Gaels.
Saint Mary's eventually shook the fog and worked their way back to a four point deficit at 56-52, at which point Dellavedova air-balled a three-point attemt and laughed it off. That shot likely seemed less funny after Gonzaga finished the game out on a 21-8 run.
The Bulldogs got contributions from everywhere - 20 points from bell, 17 points and 6 rebounds from Olynyk (which was matched by Pangos), while the Gaels were an exercise in streakiness. The first half gave them 19 from Dellavedova and two points for Holt, who then traded roles and scored 15 in the second half to Delly's three. No other player had more than six points for Saint Mary's.
The Gaels now find themselves likely needing to win out to be a legitimate tournament team, as their only quality win right now is over BYU (which looks a little less awesome over time), while the Bulldogs are gaining steam as a dark horse for a #1 seed.