By Simon Tryzna
SMCGaels.com Student Correspondent
LAS VEGAS -- In what seems to be an annual tradition, the 21st-ranked Saint Mary's men's basketball team faced rival Gonzaga for the fifth-straight time in the championship final of the West Coast Conference Championships at the Orleans Arena.
Despite a 19-point outburst from junior guard Stephen Holt, the Gaels suffered a poor-shooting night and dropped a 65-51 decision to the top-ranked Bulldogs. Saint Mary's fell to 27-5 on the season, while Gonzaga improved to 31-2.
The two teams have split the last four meetings in the WCC final and during that time neither team has been able to defend its title.
With the WCC's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament on the line, the Gaels quickly took a 4-0 lead behind a thunderous Brad Waldow dunk and a Holt Layup. However, the Gonzaga responded quickly to tie the game up and eventually take a 13-11 lead.
With the Gaels down 24-21 and junior guard Jorden Page out with injury, the Bulldogs went on a 9-0 run to extend their lead to 33-21. However, Holt hit a big three to stop the run and both teams would exchange baskets down the stretch, with Saint Mary's cutting the deficit to 38-29.
Holt carried Saint Mary's and led all scorers at the half with 12 points.
Things would not get much easier in the second half, as missed floaters by Guisti and Matthew Dellavedova allowed Gonzaga to run in transition and go on a quick 5-0 run to give them a game high 14 point lead, 43-29.
Gonzaga was able to push the lead to 49-34 but the Gaels were able to climb back into the game. Holt, Matt Hodgson, and Eividas Petrulis each scored to cut deficit to 12.
However, the Gaels were unable to get closer than that. Despite playing strong defense, Saint Mary's were unable to convert on open looks. Kelly Olynyk converted on a three point play to push the lead back to 17 for Gonzaga.
With the huge lead, the Bulldogs were able to slow the clock down on offense, while shutting out the Gaels on defense.
Elias Harris made two free throws with 3:30 left in the game that put the Bulldogs up 62-45. A Gaels turnover ten seconds later sealed Saint Mary's fate as Gonzaga was able to run the shot clock down and score late.