SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Home losses are rare for Gonzaga, even against archrival Saint Mary’s. The Gaels relied on experience and their characteristically efficient offense to pull the upset on Thursday night.
Jock Landale had 26 points and 12 rebounds, and the Gaels beat the 13th-ranked Bulldogs 74-71 to take sole possession of first place in the West Coast Conference.
“You have to have experienced guys and big guys to win here, and our guys handled the atmosphere,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “It was a heck of a win for us.”
Saint Mary’s shot 56.6 percent, slightly above its season average, and won its 13th consecutive game. The Gaels had lost 12 of their previous 14 against Gonzaga.
“It’s a huge win,” said Tanner Krebs, who had 10 points and six rebounds for Saint Mary’s (18-2, 7-0 WCC). “It looks good on our resume and puts us on top of the conference.”
Calvin Hermanson added 16 points for the Gaels, while Jordan Ford also scored 10. Landale made 12 of 15 shots.
“We did a better job of staying in front of them in the second half and kept them out of the paint,” Landale said. “We just tried to stick to what we know. It was a battle the entire game.”
Rui Hachimura came off the bench to score 23 points, 15 in the first half, for Gonzaga (16-4, 6-1 WCC), which shot poorly in the second half. Johnathan Williams added 13 points.
Gonzaga is 188-18 at McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004.
“That was two heavyweights going back and forth,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Both teams were having a hard time stopping the other’s offense.”
Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s have won the past nine WCC tournament titles, with Gonzaga claiming seven. The Gaels were the preseason pick by league coaches to win the conference this season.
“We had a couple of empty possessions in the second half and they didn’t,” Few said. “We uncharacteristically took a couple of tough ones that we shouldn’t have.”
“Hey, we get another shot at them,” Few added.
Leading by four at halftime, Gonzaga outscored the Gaels 8-3 to open the second half and push their lead to 50-41.
Saint Mary’s came back and Landale’s basket tied the score at 63 with seven minutes left. Landale scored again to put the Gaels up 65-63.
After Josh Perkins sank three free throws to put the Bulldogs ahead, Landale’s basket tied it at 68.
Hermanson’s layup put the Gaels up 70-68 with 2:45 left. Hachimura’s basket tied it again.
Landale’s layup put Saint Mary’s up 72-70 with 1:06 left.
Zach Norvell Jr. hit a free throw for Gonzaga with 41 seconds left to cut Saint Mary’s lead to one, and then Landale broke free and scored on a layup with 15 seconds left that turned out to be the game’s final points. Hachimura missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Gonzaga had been climbing in recent weeks and squandered a chance to move into the Top 10 as several teams above them have already lost this week. Saint Mary’s had already been receiving votes in the poll and is likely to move into The Associated Press Top 25.
HOT AND COLD
Gonzaga shot 56 percent in the first half but only 37.9 percent in the second. Saint Mary’s shot 61.5 percent in the first half and 51.9 percent in the second.
WHO’S IN FRONT?
There were 22 lead changes in the game, 19 of them in the first half.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels lead the nation in field goal shooting at 52.4 percent. They host the Bulldogs on Feb. 10. Landale came in averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Gonzaga: All five Gonzaga starters average in double figures, as does Hachimura. The Zags came in fourth in the nation with an average of 89.8 points per game and had been winning league games by an average of 31 points.
Saint Mary’s: At Pacific on Saturday.
Gonzaga: At Santa Clara on Saturday.
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