Saint Mary's, Gonzaga Fight To Bitter End

By Josh Herwitt - February 05, 2008

One of the things that I love about the Big Monday stretch of the college basketball season is the third game of the night's triple-header, which has been tabbed the last few years as the 12 a.m. ET/9 p.m. PT West Coast Conference game.

But this week's matchup was particularly intriguing -- even with the time difference out on the East Coast -- in seeing No. 25 Saint Mary's (CA) welcome seven-time West Coast Conference champ Gonzaga to McKeon Pavilion.

And in what was an absolute back-and-forth thriller, it was the host Gaels outlasting Mark Few's Zags in overtime to come away with a 89-85 win and share the lead with the Bulldogs in the conference standings.

That was in large part thanks to Australian freshman Patty Mills, who tallied 23 points, including the final 10 in regulation and five more during overtime, but Todd Golden may have been even more impressive in draining all six of his three-point attempts for Randy Bennett's Gaels.

"It was everything I expected," Mills said about the game afterwards.

Meanwhile, on the other side of things was Jeremy Pargo, who did everything he could to keep Gonzaga in the game as the junior point man scored a game-high 27 points (nine in overtime) and dished out nine assists.

But while the Bulldogs survived last Saturday in a double OT win at Santa Clara, it wasn't enough Monday night for Few and company, as three Gonzaga players fouled out in the extra session, one of which was freshman Austin Daye, who posted 15 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes.

The loss, however, shouldn't hurt the Zags' chances of returning to the NCAA Tournament this season, and it's largely due to the improvement of Saint Mary's that should have the WCC sending two teams to the Big Dance come March.

"People nationally think we have to be perfect in this league," Few remarked. "That's an unfair burden put on us."

Yet even with the Gaels' win and their rise to the top of the conference standings, there's no question in the minds of Few's players whose still the predominant team in the WCC.

"We still thought we were the better team," Gonzaga senior David Pendergraft said. "This is still our league. We've won it seven straight times for a reason."

Whether it will be eight remains to be seen, though.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 01:45 AM on February 05, 2008

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