Zags Take Down Gaels To Secure First Place
March 1, 2008
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Every since Gonzaga lost to Saint Mary's in early February the Zags had been focused on the rematch.
Jeremy Pargo scored all 18 of his points in the second half and No. 24 Gonzaga beat No. 25 Saint Mary's 88-76 on Saturday night to break a tie for first place in the West Coast Conference.
"Everyone on this campus has been looking forward to this game for a long time," Pargo said.
Matt Bouldin led Gonzaga (23-6, 12-1 WCC) with 21 points as the Bulldogs won for the 13th time in the past 16 games. The losses were to No. 1 Tennessee, No. 2 Memphis and Saint Mary's.
The Gaels won the first game this season, 89-85 in overtime, on Feb. 4 in Moraga, Calif.
The fast-paced game had 17 lead changes and was the first matchup between two ranked WCC teams in the league's 55-year history.
Gonzaga and Saint Mary's (24-5, 11-2) were already assured of the top two seeds and a bye into the semifinals of next week's WCC tournament in San Diego. The Zags can clinch the regular season title by beating Santa Clara on Monday.
"We don't want to share the WCC title," Bouldin said.
Daimon Simpson of Saint Mary's led all scorers with 25 points, while Patrick Mills added 20, 18 of those in the second half.
Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett was critical of his team for giving up 50 points in the second half after trailing just 38-36 at halftime.
"We got down and we quit defensively," Bennett said. "We couldn't get stops when we needed them."
The Bulldogs shot 56.7 percent in the second half, while the Gaels shot just 37.5 percent in the second. The Gaels were also handicapped by making just one of 10 3-pointers in the first half, and 7-of-23 overall.
Simpson had 18 points in the first half, and added nine rebounds in the game, just missing his fourth consecutive double-double.
"I don't think anybody out-competed him on the floor," Bennett said.
The Gaels were down after failing to secure their first WCC regular season title since 1997.
"You can tell that there is a lot of pain," said Mills, a freshman.
Pargo, who didn't even put up a shot in the first half, made 6-of-7 field goals and all four of his free throws.
"We just lost focus on him in the second half," Mills said.
Eight lead changes in the opening five minutes of the second half left Saint Mary's with a 48-47 lead. Then Bouldin and Pargo hit consecutive 3-pointers, Josh Heytvelt completed a three-point play and Pargo made a layup for an 11-0 run that opened a 58-48 lead for Gonzaga with 13:24 left.
After Mills' 3-pointer closed the Saint Mary's deficit to 61-55, Pargo hit a pair of short jumpers to rebuild a 65-55 lead.
Tron Smith hit a 3-pointer and two free throws to cut Gonzaga's lead to 77-71 with 3 minutes left. But Pargo hit a pair of free throws and a field goal and Abdullahi Kuso had a stuff to rebuild the lead to 83-73.
In the first, Simpson scored 10 of Saint Mary's first 12 points, but Gonzaga bolted to a 20-12 lead. Gonzaga hit 3-pointers on three straight possessions for a 33-24 lead.
Then Saint Mary's went on a 10-0 run, with Omar Samhan's short jumper giving the Gaels a 34-33 lead with 1:21 left.
Bouldin's 3-pointer in the final seconds lifted Gonzaga to a 38-36 halftime lead, and gave him 14 points in the half.
Gonzaga is 51-2 at home since the McCarthey Athletic Center opened in 2004.
Bouldin said the Zags were conscious that the team was in danger of losing the WCC title for the first time since 2000.
"We want to keep this streak going," he said.
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