In a familiar place against a familiar foe, the Gonzaga Bulldogs put another feather in their cap, defeating the Saint Mary's Gaels 65-51 in the West Coast Conference Tournament Final on Monday night in Las Vegas.
It was the 16th-straight WCC Finals appearance for the Zags. This is a mind-boggling achievement in the context of the program as a whole, and only furthered by the fact that the Bulldogs are currently ranked as the top-team in the country and are in a great spot to garner a number-one seed in the NCAA Tournament six days from now.
After an off shooting night in the semifinal against Loyola Marymount, the Bulldogs were firing on all cylinders tonight. Kelly Olynyk led all scorers with 21 points. The West Coast Conference Player of the Year was 7 of 12 from the field, pulled down 12 rebounds, and continued his reign of terror on opposing defenses.
Elias Harris was terrific again, scoring 19 points on 8 of 13 shooting. If the last two games are any indication of Harris' desire, come Tournament time, the citizens of Zagville have to be very excited.
The Sin City contest was similar to the Spokane contest the two teams had earlier in the season. Gonzaga jumped out to a nice halftime lead, followed by a quick run in the second. The Gaels trimmed a 20-point lead at McCarthey Center and had a chance to tie the contest late. Gonzaga simply would not allow that to happen at the Orleans Arena, cutting off a mini Saint Mary's run off at the pass midway through the second half with a run of its own.
For all of his career greatness -- both in years past, and as recently as his game-saving three-pointer to send the Gaels to an overtime against San Diego just one game ago -- Matthew Dellavedova had a night to forget. The perennial All-WCC performer had an off shooting night and was never able to get an offensive rhythm going.
It was also a night to forget as Jordan Page left the contest in the first half with a knee injury. It is this writer's hope that Delly and his Saint Mary's teammates have a chance to play in this year's NCAA Tournament. Steven Holt led all Gaels with 19 points.
The consistent opining from the media waxing eloquent about Gonzaga's apparent lack of credibility will not be silenced despite the terrific performance. Thankfully, the NCAA Tournament is just a week and a half away. It seemed the great energy employed by the Zags was evidence that this squad has only the highest of expectations.
Thankfully in college basketball, the arguments about the have and the have-nots are settled on the court. The Zags are ready to quiet the critics at home and abroad.