Wasn’t their best game but, No. 18 St. Mary’s Gaels Come Back, Beat No. 12 Gonzaga in Overtime Thriller; Beats Zags for 2nd time and controls West Coast Conference

Aidan Mahaney led comeback win

MORAGA, Calif. — College basketball games don’t get much better than what took place inside University Credit Union Pavilion on Saturday night. No. 18 Saint Mary’s hosted No. 12 Gonzaga in the first matchup between the two teams this season, and the game lived up to the billing. The Bulldogs led by as many as 11 points in the first half, and their lead held steady around eight points in the second half, but the Gaels clawed back, forced overtime, and won the game 78-70 in front of a sellout crowd. Saint Mary’s now has a two-game lead over Gonzaga for first place in the West Coast Conference, with a record of 21-4 (10-0), while Gonzaga is now 19-5 (8-2).
Gonzaga was in control of this game after the first few minutes, and it looked at times as if they might run away with the game. They led by as many as 11 points in the first half, holding a 27-16 lead with 7:09 remaining, but the Gaels were able to make it an eight-point game at halftime. It remained an eight-point game with 6:46 to go, and to that point in the game, the Gaels offense was flat. They were well under 35% shooting from the field as a team, they weren’t getting hot from beyond the arc, and despite doing a relatively good job on Gonzaga, holding them to just 51 points through 33 minutes of play, they were still down 51-43.
That’s when Aidan Mahaney showed up. Mahaney had just two points in the first half, and then suddenly became the best player in the game. He scored 11 of the next 14 points for the Gaels, and seemed like he could do no wrong. His first layup at 6:25 to go made it a six-point game, and it was an and-one, which meant he sank the free throw. Logan Johnson then made his first three-pointer of the game with less than five minutes to go, and suddenly it was a 51-49 game. Mahaney then scored the next eight points for the Gaels, including two-game tying layups, the last of which made it 59-59. There was a run where Mahaney either scored or assisted on 19 of 21 points.
Julian Strawther hit what was at the time the shot of the game, a jumper in the paint to put Gonzaga up 61-59 with less than 35 seconds to go. On the Gaels final possession of regulation, Mahaney found Mitchell Saxen in the paint, and he hit a spin move to create a wide-open look on the right glass, and he made his layup to tie the game with 5.5 seconds remaining. Despite a deep three attempt by Gonzaga at the horn, the game was going to overtime, a game in which Saint Mary’s hadn’t led since the score was 4-3.
Overtime belonged to the home team, as Saint Mary’s kept all the momentum they had built up and ran with it. Down one after a trip to the line for Gonzaga to begin overtime, Alex Ducas hit a layup to put the Gaels in front 63-62, and then Augustas Marciulionis hit a euro-step layup to make it 65-63. With the Pavilion rocking, Mahaney then hit the dagger. He moved to the deep left wing, stepped back, and banked in a three-pointer off the glass, sending the home crowd into bedlam with the score at 68-64. The game was officially put on ice with just seconds remaining, when the Gaels broke a press and Kyle Bowen dunked one home, and a steal by Marciulionis on the ensuing inbounds pass put the game away.
This was the first overtime game between SMC and Gonzaga since the 2012 WCC Championship game…this was just the third win for the Gaels over Gonzaga when both teams had been ranked in the AP Poll, with the last one coming in last season’s home finale…Mahaney finished the game with 18 points after recording just two in the first 33 minutes of the game…Saxen recorded his career-best third-straight double-double, going for 15 points and 11 rebounds…speaking of boards, the Gaels were +7 on Gonzaga, including 9-3 on the offensive glass…Logan Johnson fouled out of the game but wound up with 12 points and tied for a team-best three assists, and became the 38th member of the 1,000-point club at Saint Mary’s…no Bulldog had more than five rebounds…the 70 points scored by Gonzaga are tied for the most against the Gaels this season…Gonzaga led for 36:17, but the Gaels held them to just five assists and a -3 turnover differential.