MORAGA, Calif. (AP) — The clock counted down, the Saint Mary’s players celebrated and the students stayed in their seats.
Beating Gonzaga used to be a season-defining event for the Gaels highlighted by court storming fans.
After doing it for a second straight season with a 78-70 overtime win Saturday night, they want to show it’s expected.
“We actually were hoping that they weren’t going to stay on the court for that reason,” star freshman guard Aidan Mahaney said. “We are making this a thing now where we want to be able to rival with them every time. This isn’t an upset or anything like that. We’re not going to just talk about it. We’re going to put in the work.”
Mahaney did just that, scoring 18 points and taking the game over in crunch time to lead No. 18 Saint Mary’s over No. 12 Gonzaga for the Gaels’ 12th straight victory.
Mahaney scored or assisted on 19 of 21 points in a stretch that started with the Gaels (21-4, 10-0 West Coast Conference) trailing by four points with five minutes to play in regulation.
The freshman shook off a rough start to the game and put Saint Mary’s in control in overtime when he banked in a 3-pointer and then found Mitchell Saxen with a no-look pass for a layup that made it 70-64.
“He just has it,” coach Randy Bennett said. “A lot of guys would fold and just kind of hang their head and just kind of finish the game like that. That’s where he’s kind of special. He’s got great belief and he really, really competes to win. That’s where he’s special.”
The Bulldogs (19-5, 8-2), who didn’t trail for the final 37 minutes of regulation, couldn’t catch up and fell two games behind in the conference race.
Drew Timme scored 23 points to lead Gonzaga, but got little help offensively from the rest of his team.
“It was hard to generate offense, especially down the stretch,” coach Mark Few said. “It got really, really physical
Saxen added 15 points for Saint Mary’s and Alex Ducas scored 14.
The Gaels have been the only team really to challenge the Bulldogs in the WCC for more than the past decade, with their 10 wins against Gonzaga since the start of the 2009-10 season more than triple the second-best team.
This was the 10th time these teams have met when both were ranked, with Gonzaga winning eight of the first nine. But the Gaels came into this one as the favorite for a change and followed up last year’s home win over the Bulldogs with another one.
“I don’t know if I’ve been part of a better game,” Bennett said. “Two really good teams. Unbelievable crowd.”
Saint Mary’s played from behind for most of the night as Gonzaga got out to an 11-point lead in the first half.
But the Gaels got back into it late in the second half.
Mahaney, who started the game 1 for 10, hit four straight drives to help Saint Mary’s tie it at 57 with 3:22 to play.
“I just trusted myself and trusted the work I put in,” Mahaney said. “I figure the ball is going to go in eventually if I just keep trusting and keep shooting. It’s just about confidence. My confidence isn’t fake because I work.”
The teams traded baskets in the final minute of regulation with Julian Strawther hitting a floater with 33.8 seconds left and Saxen answering with 5.5 seconds remaining for Saint Mary’s to send it to overtime.
Gonzaga: Timme moved past Jim McPhee (2,015 points) for second place on Gonzaga’s career scoring list with 2,031 points. He again came up in key spots for the Bulldogs and still has a shot to break Frank Burgess’ school record of 2,196 points.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels didn’t get much from Johnson, who fouled out with 4:51 to play after shooting just 4 of 14 from the field for 12 points. But Mahaney carried them down the stretch to get the win.
Gonzaga: Hosts San Francisco on Thursday night.
Saint Mary’s: Visits Loyola Marymount on Thursday night.
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