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Thoughts from WCC Saturday: Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s survive tough tests

The Gaels and Zags are the two teams fighting for first place in the league race, while BYU finds itself stuck in third with an unusual partner.

NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Didn’t stay up late enough to catch all of Saturday night’s West Coast Conference action? That’s a shame, but don’t worry, we’ll get you caught up. Here are last night’s scores, the league standings and some stories from Saturday’s games.

Loyola Marymount Lions 66 - Portland Pilots 68
No. 13 Saint Mary’s Gaels 65 - San Diego Toreros 62
BYU Cougars 60 - No. 14 Gonzaga Bulldogs 68
Pacific Tigers 81 - Pepperdine Waves 72
San Francisco Dons 70 - Santa Clara Broncos 59

Gonzaga edges BYU to stay in the race

It was a close one in Spokane, where the Cougars had won the previous three meetings. But Gonzaga ultimately came out on top, thanks to a stellar second half from Rui Hachimura, who scored 11 of his team-high 15 points after the break. The win moves Gonzaga to 11-1 in the WCC and keeps them in the race, though a game back, for the regular season title.

Gonzaga shot 50 percent from the field in the first half but, as they have done more than once this season, didn’t manage to play a consistent 40 minutes of basketball. The Zags shooting percentage in the second half was a pitiful 37.5 percent. It allowed BYU back into the game and kept it close until the final seconds.

Saint Mary’s survives in San Diego

In the first meeting between these two teams, San Diego led for nearly the whole game before succumbing. This time it was the Gaels who put their foot on the gas out of the gate. Saint Mary’s shot 60 percent in the first half and built a 16 point lead.

But, despite their 6-6 conference record, San Diego is actually good. The Toreros got it together defensively and held the nation’s second-best shooting team to just 19 field goal attempts in the second half. Isaiah Pineiro scored 14 of his 24 points after halftime, and the Toreros came almost all the way back. An Isaiah Wright three pointer with 11 seconds left made it a one-point game. But, the hole the Toreros put themselves in was just a bit too deep. It’s always hard to mount a comeback against the clock management-minded Gaels. It’s also hard to pull one off when Jock Landale goes for 34 points and 18 rebounds.

The tie for third nobody saw coming

Pacific beat Pepperdine in a game that was closer than the final score would indicate. Miles Reynolds scored 14 of his game0high 22 points in the second half to help the Tigers distance themselves from the Waves. BYU too found itself in a game closer than the final score would indicate, but got a season low 18 combined points from their dynamic duo of Yoeli Childs and Elijah Bryant.

The Tigers entered conference play at 5-8 while the Cougars sat at 11-2. Now, over halfway through conference play, those two teams both own 7-5 records in the WCC.

BYU’s pretty much always in third. The Cougars have finished there in four of their six full seasons in the league. They were picked to finish there in the preseason, too.

Pacific, though, has never been here before. Since rejoining the league ahead of the 2013-2014 season, the Tigers have never managed more than six wins against WCC foes in a single campaign. They’ve got seven now, with at least seven chances to add to that total still ahead.

LMU returns to its losing ways

On Thursday the Lions, who were 1-9 in league play at that time, hosted BYU and pulled off a 76-69 upset of the third-place Cougars. It was unexpected to say the least.

On Saturday, now with two WCC wins to their name, the Lions lost 68-66 to a Portland team that entered the game with just one more win than they did.

The Lions are now 2-10 in West Coast Conference play, one game ahead of Pepperdine for last place. Which is strange, not just because they have the talent to beat BYU, but because they’ve been in so many close games this year. Of their 16 losses, six have come by two or fewer possessions: at UT Arlington, at Oregon State, at Washington, at Pacific, at San Diego, at Pepperdine and at Portland.