In their toughest test of the WCC season the Zags (26-0, 14-0 WCC), as they have all year long, handled business with ease.
Przemek Karnowski led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds on 9-13 shooting. Johnathan Williams added 17 and nine on 7-9 shooting. Silas Melson (12 points) and Nigel Williams-Goss (14 points) also hit double figures for the Zags. Saint Mary’s (22-3, 12-2) was led by Jock Landale (game high 24 points) but the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award finalist was once again, as he was against Gonzaga last month, hampered by foul trouble.
Fellow Abdul-Jabbar Award finalist Karnowski opened the game with ten of Gonzaga’s first 12 points, including all of the first six. His hot start sparked a run of ten straight made field goals for the Zags, who scored at a blistering rate of 1.9 points per possession over the first seven minutes of the game.
But it was a game of runs, and after falling behind by ten points Saint Mary’s answered.
In less than 90 seconds straddling the ten minute mark, Saint Mary’s ran off a 9-0 run to tie the game at 23-all. Gonzaga, in just 60 seconds, responded with a 7-0 run to reclaim control.
A Joe Rahon (nine points, eight rebounds, six assists) jumper temporarily stopped the bleeding at the 5:54 mark, but Gonzaga just went on an even longer run, 9-0, to take a 15 point lead. It was a dominant seven minute stretch from the Zags, who looked ready to blow the game open.
Saint Mary’s was saved by its star, as Landale scored six straight to close out the half.
Trouble came less than four minutes into the second half, though, when Landale picked up his fourth foul. His replacement, the little used Jordan Hunter (7 points), fouled out in just 13 minutes.
The Zags were drawing fouls and scoring at will, with the four rotation bigs combining for 42 points on 18-26 shooting.
At times in the second half the Gaels fought back to within five points, but Gonzaga took every punch in stride.
The Zags did not score from the field over the final eight minutes, and managed just ten points. No matter. For the vast majority of the final ten minutes Gonzaga held a double-digit lead and the Gaels came no closer than eight points during that span.
A ten point margin of victory matches Gonzaga’s lowest in WCC play this season (85-75 at BYU on February 2). Four games stand between Gonzaga and a perfect regular season; KenPom gives the Zags a 98% chance or better to win each of their remaining games.
Saint Mary’s has a test at BYU left before the WCC Tournament, and while the Gaels failed to pick up a marquee win they’re still well on their way to an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.