The Gonzaga Bulldogs are heading to their 18th-consecutive NCAA Tournament after defeating Saint Mary's, 85-75, to win the WCC Tournament championship.
For the second-consecutive night, the Bulldogs took anything and everything their opponent threw at them and held them off. At the beginning of the game, neither team could pull away and everyone was draining every shot possible. The Zags, through some smart shooting and some semi-decent defending took an eight-point lead into half.
But Saint Mary's came out guns a blazing, and none of that was a surprise. The Gaels hit 12-of-25 threes in the game, led by Joe Rahon, Calvin Hermanson and Emmitt Naar. The Gaels went back to their tried and true method of isolating Kyle Wiltjer on the high-ball screen and delivering a punishing blow nearly every time.
Still, Gonzaga prevailed. Each time it seemed that Saint Mary's was going to take the lead, someone stepped up for a big bucket. Whether it was a suddenly resurgent Kyle Dranginis darting into the paint, or Eric McClellan hitting every single free throw possible, the Zags continually prevailed. Once again, the most direct road to the NCAA Tournament runs through Spokane, this time with a slight detour in Las Vegas.
There are props galore to hand out to this team, which as of three weeks ago seemed nearly dead in the water. But the Zags rallied as we all knew they would--just no one knew it would take this long. Wiltjer scored 17 points to keep Gonzaga going in the first half. Domantas Sabonis had a quiet 15 points and eight rebounds, but was a monster on the defensive end and demanded a double-team at every look, freeing up the rest of the team for shots. The rest of the team answered.
Dranginis was 5-of-6 from the floor. McClellan was 5-of-9 from the floor, and most importantly, went 9-of-9 from the line when every free throw mattered as if his life depended on it. The same can be said for the whole team, who put up a vintage Gonzaga free throw line, going 21-of-22 from the floor.
After all the heartache, all the ups and downs (and a lot of those downs), this team has gelled at the exact right moment. Can they pull off an upset in the NCAA Tournament? Who cares. We'll play and analyze that card when it is pulled on Sunday. What is most important, above anything and everything this season, is that despite every huge odd placed in front of it, Gonzaga is going dancing for the 18th-consecutive season.
That is huge.
We are GU.
Let's have the best week y'all.