On Monday night, the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Saint Mary’s Gaels added another notch to their rivalry belt in a WCC semifinal matchup. Gonzaga has dominated an improved WCC this season, and didn’t back down from that reputation Monday. David Stockton, son of all-time NBA great Jon Stockton, led all scorers with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting, also adding six rebounds and four assists.
Gary Bell Jr. added 14 points, great team defense forced 17 turnovers, and the Zags eventually took down Saint Mary’s 70-54.
Gonzaga is looking for a second consecutive WCC tournament championship, but has gotten to that point very differently than last season. This year’s Zags do not have the individual star power they had last season, when they claimed a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Instead of isolating Kelly Olynyk on the block possession after possession or hoping for a pull-up three-ball from Kevin Pangos, this year’s team operates as a true singular unit.
In 2013-14, Gonzaga has relied on dribble penetration, reliable team defense and consistent jump-shooting while retaking the WCC’s top spot. Gonzaga has four players averaging double figures, and gets extremely efficient play from tandem point guards Pangos and Stockton.
Now 27-6, Gonzaga will look to defend its WCC title on Wednesday against the winner of BYU and San Francisco. The team flew well under the radar this season, especially when compared to last season, and is gaining confidence at the perfect time. If Gonzaga is able to lock down a WCC tournament championship, they will likely be ranked between a No. 5-7-seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
Over the years, the Zags have fared much better when playing the underdog role, and will enjoy an opportunity to hunt bulls-eyes rather than wear one this March.