Tuesday’s roundup: Gonzaga beats Saint Mary’s in WCC
Las Vegas — Eric McClellan scored 20 points, Kyle Wiltjer added 17 and Gonzaga took the guesswork out of its 18th straight NCAA Tournament appearance by beating Saint Mary’s 85-75 Tuesday night in the West Coast Conference championship game.
Despite sharing the WCC regular-season crown, Gonzaga (26-7) was not a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. The Zags had a few smudges on their resume, so winning the WCC would make for a much easier Selection Sunday.
They took the suspense out of it with a balanced attack and by shooting 61 percent in the latest installment of this rivalry. Jose Perkins scored 16 points and Domantas Sabonis added 15 for Gonzaga.
Saint Mary’s (27-5) tried to keep up with the Bulldogs’ shooting, making 12 of 25 from 3-point range, but will have to hope its resume is good enough for an NCAA Tournament berth.
Emmett Naar had 25 points and Joe Rahon added 16 for the Gaels.
Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are no strangers to the WCC title game, meeting in the final for the eighth time since 2004.
The difference this time was the favorite.
In the past, it was always Gonzaga. The Zags have been the dominant force in the WCC and beat Saint Mary’s five times in seven games with the tournament title on the line.
This season, the Gaels had the edge heading into Las Vegas. They swept Gonzaga during the regular season for the first time since 1995 and entered the WCC tournament as the No. 1 seed.
The third leg of this season’s rivalry was an offensive showcase, the teams combining to hit 13 of their first 14 shots, revving up the already-amped atmosphere inside Orleans Arena even more.
The Zags gained some separation with a bit of defense.
Gonzaga didn’t exactly keep the Gaels from making shots — they went 13 of 26 in the first half — but did harass them into turnovers that set up shots in transition.
The Zags outscored Saint Mary’s 15-4 on points off turnovers and hit 18 of 26 shots to lead 43-35 at halftime.
The torrid shooting continued in the second half and the Gaels cut down on the turnovers, allowing them to keep up with the Zags in an entertaining second half.
Gonzaga used a mini spurt capped by McClellan’s straightaway 3-pointer to push the lead to 75-67 with just over 2 minutes left and kept its cushion from there.
Summit League final
South Dakota State 67, North Dakota State 59: At Sioux Falls, Sough Dakota, freshman forward Mike Daum scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds and South Dakota State captured the Summit League championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. Deondre Parks added 14 points for the Jackrabbits (26-7), who advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the past five years.
Carlin Dupree led North Dakota State (20-13) with 19 points, and Khy Kabellis added 17 for the Bison.
Much of the early matchups inside the paint centered on a couple of freshman forwards — the 6-foot-9, 230-pound Daum for the Jackrabbits and the Bison’s big guy, 6-foot-6, 240 pound Dexter Werner. Werner scored nine points for the Bison.
Northeastern Conference final
Fairleigh Dickinson 87, Wagner 79: At New York, Darian Anderson scored 28 points and Earl Potts Jr. had 27 in the championship game of the Northeast Conference Tournament, earning the Knights their fifth NCAA Tournament bid. Anderson had 18 points in the second half and Potts had 16 when the Knights took control on the way to their first NCAA bid since 2005, and the first under third-year coach Greg Herenda.
Potts scored FDU’s first nine points of the second half as it took the lead for good on his 3-pointer that gave the second-seeded Knights (18-14) the lead at 51-47.
They were ahead by as many as 10 points, the first time on a 3 by Marques Townes with 4:15 to play.