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West Coast Conference Saturday: Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, and San Diego sit atop the standings

The league’s top three teams all showed off strengths on the first Saturday of conference play.

NCAA Basketball: San Diego State at San Diego
San Diego’s Olin Carter came up big on Saturday against Pepperdine.
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The first Saturday of the West Coast Conference season had nearly eight hours of non-stop basketball. Couldn’t catch it all? We’ll get you up to date. Here are Saturday’s scores, the league standings, and three stories from a busy weekend in the WCC.

Saint Mary’s Gaels 74 - BYU Cougars 64 (OT)
Pepperdine Waves 66 - San Diego Toreros 74
Santa Clara Broncos 52 - No. 20 Gonzaga Bulldogs 101
San Francisco Dons 84 - Portland Pilots 61
Loyola Marymount Lions 82 - Pacific Tigers 88 (OT)

WCC Standings 12/30/17

Saint Mary’s sets the pace

The Gaels and Cougars entered the day tied atop the standings with identical 12-2 (1-0) records. But after a 74-64 win in Provo, the Gaels own the best record in the WCC (13-2, 2-0) and a share of first place in the standings.

Each year, the same three teams have reasonable shots at the league title: Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, and BYU. The six games those three teams play against each other are the biggest, best, and most important games of the season. Hold serve on your home court and you’re in good position. The Cougars failed to do that, and now they’ll probably need to pick up wins in Moraga and Spokane if they want to have a shot at their first WCC title.

That said, this is basically a race for second place. It’s Gonzaga’s league until somebody other than Matthew Dellavedova steals the crown. Regardless, Saint Mary’s is in a good place.

Olin Carter the third option

A season-high 27 points from Olin Carter III helped San Diego stave off a pesky Pepperdine team and continue the best start in the program’s Division I history. That historic start is due in large part to a pair of transfers, Isaiah Wright and Isaiah Pineiro. The Isaiahs have been San Diego’s two best players this season, but neither of them can claim to be a preseason all-WCC first team honoree like Carter can.

It’s an incredible luxury for head coach Lamont Smith to have an all-conference first teamer as his third-best player. And not because Carter is struggling, but because Smith brought in two even better players. Carter is third on the team with an average of 11.8 points per game. His numbers have dipped a bit compared to last season (15.3 points per game), but he’s still having a great junior year.

Gonzaga’s dominance on display

The Zags’ 49-point win over Santa Clara was their largest margin of victory since a 58-point win over San Diego last season. Gonzaga opened the game with 15 unanswered points and never looked back. Silas Melson led all scorers with 19 points while seven total Bulldogs scored in double figures. The Zags scored 1.485 points per possession and held Santa Clara to just 0.743 points per possession. Both were season-bests for the Bulldogs.

Gonzaga is now 2-0 in conference play after a pair of blowout victories against teams from the bottom half of the WCC.