Sam Dower Jr. (back) and Gary Bell Jr. (broken hand), typically starters, were both on the bench to start the game. Dower would play though Bell would not. Two other starters were hobbled as well. Kevin Pangos is playing through turf toe and David Stockton through the flu.
Saint Mary's was playing without head coach Randy Bennett. This was game two of a five game NCAA suspension for recruiting violations.
Gonzaga, a team for which depth was the main concern coming into this season, showed that its bench players are more than capable of stepping up. Well, at least the first guys off the bench. Gonzaga led by 30 until putting in four guys who almost never play.
This was actually a competitive game for much of the first half, despite what the 36-22 halftime score may imply. Gonzaga clung to a one point lead for most of the first several minutes. Saint Mary's then took a slightly more comfortable lead for the following several minutes. By the under-eight media timeout it was 18-all. That timeout came with 7:32 left to play.
After the timeout the Gaels came into what would be their game form. They started playing very bad offensive basketball. Over the following seven and a half minutes they scored just four points.
Kerry Carter tried to get the Gaels back into it in the second half, scoring five of their first eight points. However, those points came over the course of nearly eight minutes. The Gaels actually outscored the Zags during that span.
Nunez, playing in his third game since becoming eligible, really made himself known tonight. His dunk with 7:39 left pushed the lead to 23, fired up the Kennel and forced Saint Mary's to call a timeout with the under-eight timeout just around the corner. The 6-8 stretch four has answered questions about the Zags' lack of depth behind Dower and Karnowski.
Gonzaga took a 30 point lead with 4:43 left to play. At that point the Zags began pulling starters and Saint Mary's tried to make the final score a little more respectable.
This game is emblematic how the top-tier WCC teams have performed of late. The conference has been surprisingly stacked, top-to-bottom. No team has a losing record at this point. But, two of the league's marquee teams have been tanking. BYU has lost to LMU and Pepperdine. Tonight, Saint Mary's put up a stinker against Gonzaga after going 0-3 in the Diamond Head Classic.
I don't know if anybody has the stats to prove this, but the WCC may become the best league to ever send just one team to the NCAA Tournament.
Can't end this article without mentioning the Zags defense. Yes, they have a defense.
How good were the @ZagMBB tonight on D they held the nations 3rd best 3pt FG% team to 8% from 3 on the game; Only 2 assists on the game— Sean Farnham (@SeanFarnham) January 3, 2014
Their defense continues to pull closer to level with the offense as the reason why they are winning games.
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