LAS VEGAS (AP) – Kelly Olynyk had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and top-ranked Gonzaga bolstered its case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament by routing Saint Mary’s 65-51 in the West Coast Conference final Monday night.
Already headed to the NCAA tournament for the 15th straight season, Gonzaga (31-2) sure had the look of a No. 1 seed, playing a superb game at both ends.
The deep Zags shot 52 percent, dominated inside and teamed up to hound Gaels leading scorer Matthew Dellavedova everywhere he went. Elias Harris added 19 points for Gonzaga, which had a 42-18 advantage in the paint.
Saint Mary’s (27-6) labored against Gonzaga’s attacking defense, particularly after point guard Jorden Page injured his right knee midway through the first half.
Dellavedova struggled for the second straight game, scoring two points on 1-of-8 shooting, and the Gaels went 7-for-27 from 3-point range.
Stephen Holt led Saint Mary’s, which should have a solid enough resume to earn an at-large NCAA bid.
Gonzaga has been the marker for mid-major success, reaching the NCAA tournament 14 straight seasons and the regional finals four times, including the past two seasons.
This season, the Zags broke through a big barrier on their way to 30 wins for the first time: No. 1.
Behind the Olynyk, the long-haired Canadian with the Seattle-grunge vibe and way-above-the-rim game, Gonzaga lost just two games – to ranked teams – and became the first team to go 16-0 in the WCC. That earned the Bulldogs a spot atop The Associated Press poll for the first time last week.
While glare at the top was too much for many teams in this season of parity, Gonzaga handled prosperity well, closing the regular season with a rout over Portland. Gonzaga then beat Loyola Marymount in the semifinals of the WCC tournament to reach the title game for the 16th straight season.
Waiting for them was a familiar foe.
The Gaels and Bulldogs have met 15 times the past five seasons, trading WCC tournament championships each of the past four seasons.
Gonzaga beat Saint Mary’s both times they met during the regular season, 83-78 at home and 77-60 in the Bay Area. The Gaels nearly missed a third shot, needing a late 3-pointer by Dellavedova and overtime to hold off San Diego in the WCC semifinals.
Saint Mary’s managed to keep it close until Page got hurt at 11:42 of first half, then went more than 6 minutes without a field goal against Gonzaga’s aggressive man defense.
Olynyk brought the mostly pro-Gonzaga crowd to its feet by stripping Dellavedova and streaking in for a breakaway dunk, then Kevin Pangos kept the roar going with a jumper off another steal. Harris followed with another basket on the break, putting the Bulldogs up 33-21 and the fans back on their feet.
Gonzaga kept making shots and led 38-29 after halftime after shooting 16 of 25 from the floor.
Dellavedova, who went 2 for 12 in the semifinals, barely had room to move against Gary Bell Jr.’s in-the-jersey defense, scoring two points on 1-of-4 shooting. The Gaels went 3 of 16 from 3-point range in the half.
Gonzaga didn’t let up in the second half.
Olynyk opened with a basket inside, Bell put the Zags up 43-29 with a 3-pointer from the wing and Olynyk later put a punctuation mark on the runaway, soaring in for a one-handed dunk over Brad Waldow that made it a 19-point lead.