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Looking back at how previous games against ranked Saint Mary’s squads went

Both times the Zags have spoiled the Gaels party.

NCAA Basketball: St. Mary's at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga’s upcoming game against Saint Mary’s might be one of the biggest ones in the history of the growing rivalry. Year in and year out, you can pretty much say the same thing about each game played between the two team’s, but this year there is a special extra bit of flavor.

For just the third time in recent history, Saint Mary’s will be ranked when they play Gonzaga. This seems a bit far fetched, especially considering Saint Mary’s recent success, but the Gaels have often spent times just collecting votes. Or, they are like the Zags—a couple of bad losses and you plummet out for good.

In both instances, the Zags introduced Saint Mary’s to the top 25 the hard way, but lets take a look at how each game played out.

Feb. 9, 2012 - Gonzaga 73, Saint Mary’s 59

There is a theme in both games, and it is a pretty consistent theme in games in the WCC. Opposing team hung with the Zags, but then opposing team fell off the map in the second half. Saint Mary’s was no different than generic opposing team in this contest.

In this game, Saint Mary’s was ranked No. 16 in the nation, largely based off a 12 game winning streak that also involved a win over Gonzaga. The Gaels smelled blood in the water. The Matthew Dellavedova led squad had upended the No. 21 ranked Zags in Moraga, 83-62. They held the upper hand for a WCC title.

Unfortunately, you still gotta play the other half in Spokane. Dellavedova scored a team-high 20 points, but he got pretty much zero help from the rest of his lackies. A freshman Brad Waldow chipped in 10 points, but the other offensive mainstay for the Gaels, Stephen Holt, was a no-show, finishing with zero points.

The Zags got off to a slow-ish start, and the Gaels hung in at the first half, only trailing 34-31. But then, Spokane happened. Kevin Pangos rained hellfire from beyond, hitting five of six threes and leading the Zags with 27 points. Elias Harris and Robert Sacre outmuscled the Saint Mary’s interior, finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and 12 points and nine rebounds, respectively. The Zags outscored the Gaels by 11 points in the second half to take the easy win. Gonzaga shot an eFG% of 59.4 on the game, Saint Mary’s was just at 42.7.

Jan. 29, 2009 - Gonzaga 69, Saint Mary’s 62

This game was extra tasty because both teams were ranked, Saint Mary’s at No. 22, Gonzaga at No. 20. This was also the beginning of the Saint Mary’s ascent. The 2009 squad featured such villians as Patty Mills, Diamon Simpson, Mickey McConnell, and of course, the infamous Omar Samhan.

And in this contest, in Spokane, Saint Mary’s came to play. Way more than the Zags did. The Gaels raced out to a 39-33 lead at halftime, and looked like they were going to run away with a game they just wanted more. Unfortunately, Mills went down with a broken wrist in the game, and that was the end of the dream. Up until that point, he had scored 18 points in 17 minutes and the Zags didn’t have an answer for the future NBA player.

Simpson provided some extra power, scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, but the Zags were able to render Samhan mostly ineffective, limiting the big man to eight points and seven rebounds. Combined, the two players also turned the ball over nine times.

The Zags, meanwhile, rallied, and then some, in the second half. Gonzaga outscored the Gaels by 13 points in the latter chunk of the game to secure the win, powered by the balanced scoring attack from that Gonzaga team. Outside of Josh Heytvelt’s nine points, the rest of the starting five (Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin, Stephen Gray, and Austin Daye) all scored in double figures.

Say what you will about Saint Mary’s and what a smoldering pile of trash they are, but credit due to the Gaels, they sure know how to play a close game with Gonzaga sometimes. With the Gaels rolling in as one of the better shooting teams in the country, facing off against one of the best Gonzaga teams we’ve seen, Saturday has all the pickings to be one of the classic games between the two schools.