LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 05: Robert Sacre #00 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs is fouled by Clint Steindl #11 of the Saint Mary's Gaels during the championship game of the Zappos.com West Coast Conference Basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena March 5, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
For as boring as it may be, there are times when simple cliches can describe a game better than anything else. Tonight, the best way I can describe Gonzaga's effort against Saint Mary's is simply that they did not take advantage of enough opportunities given to them. While neither team put together their best performance of the season, it was the Gaels that made plays when they mattered the most and in a game as evenly matched as this, it made all the difference. In what was an excellent finish to a very solid West Coast Conference season, Saint Mary's escaped the Bulldogs tonight by a score of 78-74. Overtime was needed to decide the game after the Zags went on a torrid run to tie the game at the end of regulation. In the end, Gonzaga just did not make enough plays and could not find the shooting touch that got them into the finals tonight. While there is no sugarcoating the implications of tonight's loss, it is hard to be too upset after such a game. The Zags simply did not execute at crucial points in the game.
Execution did not fail across the board tonight for the Bulldogs. In fact, this was one of the best all-around games from the Zags frontcourt of the season. Elias Harris, Rob Sacre, and Sam Dower combined for 53 points. Harris had another incredible game. He was 10-14 from the floor with 22 points and 13 rebounds. Down the stretch, Harris has simply been a double double machine. Robert Sacre, a man that has been the emotional leader of this team for a couple years now, was on a whole new level tonight. Rob scored 17 points tonight on 6-12 from the floor and, although it was in a losing effort, it was one of the best games of Rob's career. He was often guarding Matt Dellavedova (not a typo) and was all of the floor for the Bulldogs. Rob has been much maligned by fans, including us, but it is always fun watching him when his production matches the energy he brings to this team.
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While Harris, Sacre, and Dower were excellent, Gonzaga simply didn't get enough production from its young backcourt to get them over the hump. For as good as Kevin Pangos was against BYU, he struggled about as much as he has all season tonight. Whether it was missed jumpers, aimless drives into the paint, or missing assignments, tonight was a game that the young freshmen will probably like to forget. Games like these happen to teams that rely so much on the play of freshmen and tonight was nothing more than an off night. I've seen a lot of people make statements like "Well, if he can't get it done on this stage, what is he going to do when the NCAA Tournament starts". To me, this is an incredibly misguided thought. Pangos is a huge reason why the Bulldogs were in this position and tonight was a learning experience. I look forward to seeing what he can do as the pressure continues to increase.
As Pangos struggled, most fans were waiting for another member of the backcourt to step up but it never happened. Gary Bell only scored six points tonight and was extremely quiet offensively, Guy Landry Edi was 1-6, and possibly the ugliest stat is that the guards off the bench provided zero points. David Stockton dished out four assists off the bench but the Bulldog guards just never got going.
Now it is time to wait. While there will be no sweating whether or not Gonzaga will be in the tournament, now we must hope that this team can avoid the dreaded 8/9 matchup. If history is any indicator, the committee will likely not do any favors for teams in mid-major conferences that fail to win their regular season title or conference tournament.