On Gonzaga Day and in front of a national stage with ESPN’s College Gameday in the house, the Gonzaga Bulldogs flexed their muscles and beat the Saint Mary’s Gaels 74-64 to move to 26-0. With the Gael threat dispelled, Gonzaga is on the doorstep of completing an unblemished regular season.
Gonzaga shot 55% from the field as the frontcourt carried the day, with Przemek Karnowski (19 points, 9-13 FG) and Johnathan Williams III (17 points, 7-9 FG) combining for nearly half of the team’s total points scored. Zach Collins was no slouch either, frequently forcing Jock Landale and Dane Pineau to earn every inch of positioning in the post.
The Gaels avoided the ignominy of being blown out by the Zags for the second time this season, but missed the opportunity to put a signature win on their resume. Saint Mary’s leading scorer Jock Landale posted a strong line with 24 points and 8 rebounds, but blunted his own impact with the same silly foul trouble that plagued him in the Kennel last month.
With Landale shuttling between the bench and the floor in an effort to avoid picking up a fifth foul, the Gaels failed to find another player able to step up and shoulder the load. No other Gael scored in double figures, with Emmett Naar (5 points, 2-11 FG) in particular struggling to make a positive impact.
The Zags may not have played a perfect basketball game, but in a hostile road environment against a rival team desperate to ruin their quest for perfect, exhibited the talent, character and cohesiveness that has fans and analysts alike discussing a legitimate Final Four run.
Saint Mary’s mounted several runs to put pressure on Gonzaga and prevent the game from getting away, but at every juncture the Zags had an answer to stretch the lead back to a comfortable distance. Even during offensive cold spells, Gonzaga’s defense was more than capable of shouldering the burden and effectively disrupted Saint Mary’s vaunted efficient attack.
The Gaels struggled to create open looks for its shooters for most of the evening, as the Zags were content to single up against Landale in the post and stay home on the perimeter. Additionally, Saint Mary’s frequent high ball screens didn’t do much to create space against Gonzaga’s length, and the Gaels finished the night with only 11 assists and limited damage from the 3-point line (4-15).
As Gonzaga has inched closer and closer to an undefeated regular season, this game was pointed to as the most likely roadblock to accomplishing such a task. Although there’s still one more game left against an unpredictable BYU squad, Gonzaga’s chances at completing an unbeaten regular season schedule shot up to 95.3% after this game according to KenPom. Whether the Zags can finish the job and notch four more wins will be one of the biggest storylines over the next two weeks.