It was virtually a home game for the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Out of the 6,826 people in attendance at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, more than three-quarters of the stands were filled with the Bulldog red and blue. Just a sliver of the arena showed the similar colors and cheers of the Saint Mary’s Gaels. It reminded many of the Feb. 9 game in Spokane, Wash. where the Bulldogs handled the Gaels 73-59.
The outcome of the West Coast Conference Championship game was significantly closer and resulted in a win for Saint Mary’s.
The Gaels (27-5) defeated the Bulldogs (25-6) 78-74 in overtime to win the tournament championship and secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Junior guard Matthew Dellavedova led Saint Mary’s with 22 points, while senior forward Rob Jones contributed 18 points and 9 rebounds.
After causing a turnover from trapping Dellavedova in the back corner, senior forward Elias Harris hit a 3-pointer with 8.8 seconds left to tie the score at 68 to send the game into overtime. But the Gaels capitalized on their foul shooting to secure the overtime victory.
Harris led the Bulldogs with 22 points and 13 rebounds, while senior center Robert Sacre added 17 points. Saint Mary’s was considered by many bracketologists last season as a team that should have made it into the NCAA Tournament with a record of 25-8 but were sent instead to the NIT. Both the Bulldogs and the BYU Cougars are also expected to make it into the tournament this season, making it three teams from the WCC in the Big Dance, more than they have had in a long time.