SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -Matt Bouldin said Gonzaga wanted to make a statement during its showdown with Saint Mary's.
Well, the No. 16 Zags are still in first place in the West Coast Conference after a surprisingly easy 80-61 win Thursday night that put them in the driver's seat for a 10th consecutive regular-season title.
``They've only got four losses, and two of them are to us,' Bouldin said. ``This was a really big deal to come out and get this W.'
Elias Harris scored 19 points and Bouldin had 18 as the Bulldogs (20-4, 8-1 WCC) shut down the Gaels in the second half to reach 20 wins for the 13th consecutive season.
After leading by three at halftime, the Zags held Saint Mary's to 29 percent shooting in the second half and outscored them 41-25 to beat perhaps their closest league foes for the sixth consecutive time.
``Those guys are always the challenger,' said Robert Sacre, who added 13 points and six rebounds while helping hold Saint Mary's star Omar Samhan to seven points in the decisive second half. ``We got fired up.'
Samhan led all scorers with 21 points and 11 rebounds as Saint Mary's (21-4, 8-2) saw a six-game winning streak snapped.
``You can't turn the ball over against these guys and expect to win,' Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said of his team's 17 turnovers that led to 22 Gonzaga points. The Zags had only 11 turnovers, and only two in the second half.
The game was close for the first 23 minutes, with seven lead changes and eight ties, the last on Samhan's basket that knotted the score at 43 with just over 16 minutes left.
After that, it was all Gonzaga. Demetri Goodson scored to start a 16-3 run over the next three minutes that put Gonzaga ahead 59-46.
Consecutive baskets by Harris gave Gonzaga a 70-54 lead with nine minutes left and the Gaels were done.
``We played harder on defense,' Bouldin said of the decisive run.
Gonzaga held the Gaels to 37 percent shooting in the game. Matthew Dellavedova scored 11 points, the only other player in double figures for a team that averages 81 points per game. Mickey McConnell, who averages nearly 14 points, did not score. The Gaels had only seven field goals in the second half.
``Their defense bothered us, got to us and changed the game,' Bennett said.
The Zags shot 54 percent after a poor start.
Gonzaga missed eight of its first 10 shots in the game as Saint Mary's took a 12-5 lead after six minutes of play. Bol Kong's 3-pointer tied it at 16, and his layup put the Zags ahead 18-16. The lead changed hands numerous times after that.
``We were little anxious,' Gonzaga coach Mark Few acknowledged.
A 3-pointer by Ben Allen of Saint Mary's with 7 seconds left tied it at 36, but Bouldin's 3-pointer at the buzzer gave Gonzaga a 39-36 halftime lead.
Gonzaga has won 12 of its past 13 games. The Bulldogs are 71-4 in the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004.
Few was pleased to reach 20 wins.
``We've been able to stay relevant and consistent,' he said. ``Nothing is guaranteed.'
The Associated Press News Service
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