No. 5 Gonzaga took a stranglehold on the West Coast Conference race with a 77-60 victory over Saint Mary's.

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MORAGA, Calif. — Gary Bell Jr., Kevin Pangos and the Gonzaga Bulldogs took a big step toward taking back the conference title that Saint Mary’s wrestled away from them a year ago.

Bell scored 20 points and helped fuel a fast start to the second half that helped No. 5 Gonzaga take a stranglehold on the West Coast Conference race with a 77-60 victory over Saint Mary’s on Thursday night.

Pangos added 18 points and Kelly Olynyk scored 17 for the Bulldogs (24-2, 11-0), who have a two-game lead over the Gaels (21-5, 10-2) in the loss column after sweeping the season series. Saint Mary’s ended Gonzaga’s 11-year run at the top of the conference by winning both the regular-season and tournament titles last year.

“It means a lot to me and the guys who haven’t gotten one yet since we’ve been here,” Pangos said. “It was huge for us. Now we’re that much closer to getting that conference title we didn’t get last year when they took it away from us.”

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Matthew Dellavedova scored 19 of his 22 points in the first half and Stephen Holt added 17 for the Gaels, who are still looking for that signature win to boost their chances to make the NCAA tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. Saint Mary’s has won 13 of 15 games but both losses have come against Gonzaga.

“It’s tough right now but we just have to flip the page,” Holt said.

The Bulldogs took control early in the second half, getting a three-pointer from Bell to start a 7-0 run in the opening 1:06 to take the lead for good. They extended the advantage to 46-37 when Bell hit a three-pointer after Gonzaga got two offensive rebounds on the trip and Olynyk’s three-pointer as the shot clock ran down made it 52-37 with under 15 minutes to go to cap the 20-4 run to open the half.

“You just can’t do that,” Gaels coach Randy Bennett said. “You can’t come out in a game like that against a good team and spot them 10 points to start the half. It’s a tough way to get a win.”

Saint Mary’s led 33-32 at halftime.

“They were hitting some crazy shots,” Olynyk said. “Kudos to them for hitting them. But we knew they wouldn’t be able to beat us on those shots all game.”

This proved to be another intense meeting between these fierce rivals. After spending years chasing the Bulldogs in the WCC, the Gaels had won four of the past eight meetings heading into this game, including two conference tournament titles.


GONZAGA (24-2) — Olynyk 6-13 3-4 17, Harris 2-8 3-4 7, Pangos 4-9 9-10 18, Bell, Jr. 6-10 4-4 20, Hart 2-3 0-0 5, Dranginis 0-0 0-0 0, Stockton 1-1 0-0 2, Karnowski 0-0 1-2 1, Dower 2-3 0-0 4, Barham 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 24-48 20-24 77.

SAINT MARY’S (CAL) (21-5) — Waldow 3-4 0-3 6, Young 1-6 0-0 2, Page 1-4 0-0 2, Dellavedova 7-15 2-2 22, Holt 7-14 0-0 17, Rowley 0-0 0-0 0, Giusti 1-5 0-0 3, Levesque 2-3 0-0 6, Walker III 1-7 0-0 2. Totals 23-58 2-5 60.

Halftime — Saint Mary’s (Cal) 33-32. Three-point goals — Gonzaga 9-17 (Bell, Jr. 4-5, Olynyk 2-3, Barham 1-1, Hart 1-2, Pangos 1-4, Harris 0-1, Dower 0-1), Saint Mary’s (Cal) 12-35 (Dellavedova 6-12, Holt 3-8, Levesque 2-2, Giusti 1-5, Young 0-1, Page 0-3, Walker III 0-4). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Gonzaga 37 (Harris 9), Saint Mary’s (Cal) 25 (Holt 6). Assists — Gonzaga 13 (Bell, Jr., Pangos 3), Saint Mary’s (Cal) 10 (Dellavedova 6). Total fouls — Gonzaga 12, Saint Mary’s (Cal) 18. A — 3,500.

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