LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- David Stockton led a balanced Gonzaga attack with a career high-tying 21 points and the Saint Mary's men's basketball team saw its run at the West Coast Conference Tournament come to a close as the Gaels fell 70-54 in a semifinal game at Orleans Arena.
Brad Waldow led Saint Mary's (22-11) with 14 points. Stephen Holt added 13 as the Gaels shot just 37 percent from the floor and 25 percent from 3-point range. Gary Bell Jr. added 14 and Sam Dower Jr. chipped in with 12 for Gonzaga (27-6).
"I thought last time we played them, we didn't play hard enough. We played pretty hard tonight. There were times I thought we played harder than they did," Saint Mary's head coach Randy Bennett said. "But, we did not play well enough. You're not going to shoot 35 percent and beat those guys. You've got to play well and play hard. We came a little closer. We played hard."
A sloppy start sent Saint Mary's to the locker room for halftime down 11 after turnovers and missed shots got the Gaels off on the wrong foot and got a largely pro-Gonzaga crowd into the game.
Three Gaels turnovers in the first five minutes Monday helped Gonzaga start the game on an 9-2 run, with two free throws by Dower capping the stretch. The Bulldogs extended their advantage to 13-4 when another Saint Mary's turnover resulted in a breakout and layup for Bell.
The Gonzaga lead got as large as 13 and it wasn't until late in the half that Saint Mary's started to show some offensive flow. An impressive step-through allowed Waldow to split a double team from Dower and Przemek Karnowski and the Shingle Springs, Calif. native laid it home to bring the deficit back to single digits at 24-15 with 4:11 left.
Two free throws by Dower provided the final points of the half, giving Gonzaga a 31-20 lead at the break. Though the Bulldogs didn't shoot dramatically better than Saint Mary's (45 percent to 39 percent) in the half, they did connect three times from 3-point land and go 8 for 8 from the free throw line while the Gaels did not make a 3 and went 2 for 7 from the stripe.
"I thought Saint Mary's did a good job of slowing the pace down and really playing our bigs physical," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "The neat thing to see from our end was we have different guys who can step up."
Early in the second half, Saint Mary's seemed poised to make its comeback. A 3-pointer by Kerry Carter cut the Gonzaga lead to six, making it 33-27 with 17:22 to play. That only set Gonzaga on another run, as a 3 by Kevin Pangos and layups by Stockton and Bell put the Bulldogs back up 40-27 with just over 15 minutes to play.
Gonzaga continued to build on that momentum, getting to seemingly every 50-50 ball and getting to spots before Saint Mary's could. Two free throws by Stockton extended the Bulldogs' lead to 50-32 with 10:59 left.
Saint Mary's continued to fight, and a 3-pointer by Walker brought the Gaels to within 12 at 52-40 with 8:08 left. The momentum was again short-lived for SMC, as Gonzaga re-established a 16-point lead shortly thereafter and kept the Gaels at bay the rest of the way. Monday's loss was Saint Mary's third to Gonzaga this season.
"We're getting better. We should still be playing after this so hopefully we'll keep improving," Bennett said. "We didn't play well enough when we played them this year to beat them."
Saint Mary's now awaits its postseason fate, with a week remaining in conference tournament season across the country. The Gaels will find out next weekend what their fate will be.