The Gonzaga Bulldogs borderline picture-perfect season just got slightly out of focus after the Saint Mary’s Gaels absolutely trounced the Zags in Moraga, 70-60. It is the first loss for Gonzaga since losing in overtime to Stanford on Nov. 17. The Gaels win ends Gonzaga’s 21-game winning streak.
Saint Mary’s came into the contest with a 5-7 conference record and a 10-13 record overall. Gonzaga, despite senior guard Katie Campbell to injury last Saturday, has been rolling in the WCC. This afternoon, it was a completely different look, for both teams.
The Gaels leapt out to a massive 18-4 lead in the first quarter. The Zags couldn’t buy a bucket to save their lives. Missed (and wide open) jumpers from the Wirth twins that normally fall just clanked out. Open looks at the hoop bounced out. Offensive putbacks just rolled off the rim. It was as if there was a hex on the hoop. Gonzaga’s first field goal in the game didn’t come until over six minutes in.
Meanwhile, Saint Mary’s was hot, absurdly hot. The Gaels hit a lot of good shots, and a lot of wacky ones. But when you are feeling it, you are feeling it. Saint Mary’s was 4-of-7 from three-point range in the first 10 minutes.
Things didn’t get slightly better for Gonzaga in the second half. Loera mounted a nice flurry of points on her own, but the rest of the team just couldn’t find a way to score. The Zags went into halftime trailing 32-23. Loera had 12 of Gonzaga’s 23 points. By halftime, the Zags were shooting just 27.6 percent. Meanwhile, Saint Mary’s forward Sam Simons went absolutely ballistic, shooting a perfect 4-of-4 from long range, scoring 14 points by half.
In the third quarter, the Gaels just rudely pushed Gonzaga to the floor. Jill Townsend, Gonzaga’s leading scorer, couldn’t hit any of her shots, open or contested. Gonzaga couldn’t figure out how to punch it in down low. The Wirth twins had a total of zero points, mustering just six shot attempts between the two of them in the first 30 minutes.
Finally, entering the fourth quarter down a mere 18 points, Townsend started to get hot. The Zags went on a 15-3 run to trim the lead eventually down to nine points, but a career-game by Taycie Wedin helped push the lead to a comfortable double-digit lead for the rest of the fourth quarter.
Gonzaga, whose defense has been their hallmark this season, just had no answer for Saint Mary’s this game. Granted, the no matter what Gonzaga did—hold Saint Mary’s to a last second shot in the shot clock, put one, two, three, four, five hands in the face—the Gaels hit absolutely everything. Saint Mary’s shot a staggering 14-of-21 from three-point range. The Gaels turned the ball over 21 times, but it didn’t matter when they hit every single shot.
It is a disappointing loss for Gonzaga. Collectively, the entire team went cold at the worst possible moment. Meanwhile, Saint Mary’s was as hot as the interior of the sun. Wedin hit a career-high with 24 points, and Simons chipped in 22.
Credit due to the Gaels for neutralizing the Gonzaga interior. The Wirth twins finished with zero points and both fouled out. Once Gonzaga fell into the hole the first ten minutes of the game, Saint Mary’s owned the pace, the play, and the tone.
Gonzaga is still a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but the question comes into hosting. Gonzaga is looking to host the first two rounds of the tournament in Spokane, and this loss will not help the resume whatsoever. All they can do is bounce back, play one game at a time, and hope the committee recognizes their achievements this year.