No. 23 Saint Mary’s denied No. 1 Gonzaga its 35th straight West Coast Conference victory on Saturday, handing the Bulldogs their first loss since Dec. 4 with a 67-57 upset that will send the Zags into the postseason on a sour note. Tommy Kuhse scored 14 points and Matthias Tass added 13 to lead the way as the Gaels snapped Gonzaga’s 17-game winning streak.
Gonzaga entered Saturday’s loss as the projected No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, according to CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm. Even with the loss, however, the Zags will remain as the projected top seed. Saint Mary’s entered as a projected No. 6 seed and could be in line for a bump after picking up a fourth Quad 1 win.
Saint Mary’s extended its home-winning streak to 18 games and snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Zags with the victory, the last of which came in 2019 when the Bulldogs were also ranked No. 1.
Gonzaga (24-3, 13-1 WCC) needed the win to secure its second straight undefeated regular season in WCC competition and third in the last four seasons. But the Gaels (24-6, 12-3) proved tougher for the Zags in a road rematch than they were in a 74-58 Gonzaga home win on Feb. 12. St. Mary’s outscored Gonzaga 40-28 in the paint and limited the Zags to just 36.7% shooting.
It was the final regular-season game for both teams before the WCC Tournament begins Thursday in Las Vegas. Gonzaga and St. Mary’s will each be off until the semifinals on March 7 by virtue of finishing No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the league standings. That sets up a potential rematch in the WCC Tournament title game on March 8.
Here’s what we learned from Saturday night’s upset.
Timme’s off night
After scoring 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting in Gonzaga’s 74-58 win over the Gaels on Feb. 12, Zags’ star forward Drew Timme struggled on Saturday. His 2 for 10 shooting night marked the second-worst shooting performance of his career. The only time the junior ever shot a worse percentage from the field came in his freshman season when he went 1 for 6 in a win against San Francisco. Timme missed all eight of his shot attempts in the first half and committed three turnovers. He scored six points in the second half but attempted just two shots from the field.
Freshman phenom Chet Holmgren also had a quiet night with six points on 3 of 7 shooting as he failed to reach double figures for the first time since Dec. 28.
If Gonzaga was going to drop a game in WCC play, this was the most respectable place to do it, and perhaps the timing can work to Gonzaga’s advantage. With more than a week until they open play in the WCC Tournament, the Zags can get back to the drawing board. The ability of the Gaels to take away Timme and Holmgren could be a wake up call for the team’s guards.
Rasir Bolton led the way for Gonzaga with 16 points and Andrew Nembhard contributed 15 — but on 18 shots. Unlike last season when the Bulldogs had a freshman superstar in the back court in Jalen Suggs, this team doesn’t have a human highlight reel at point guard capable of taking over a game. Nembhard and Bolton bring veteran savvy, but they will need to be better than they were Saturday. Freshman guards Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis played just six and five minutes, respectively, against St. Mary’s.
Gonzaga’s loss capped a historic day in college basketball that saw each of the top six teams in the AP Top 25 lose. Joining the Zags in the loss column were No. 2 Arizona, No. 3 Auburn, No. 4 Purdue, No. 5 Kansas and No. 6 Kentucky. For good measure, No. 9 Texas Tech also fell to make it seven of the AP Top 10 that lost.
All the attrition at the top gave Gonzaga a little bit of padding for the loss. Considering the other three projected No. 1 seeds in Palm’s Bracketology entering Saturday also lost, there wasn’t anywhere for the Zags to go within the hierarchy of projected No. 1 seeds. Perhaps the Bulldogs can find some solace in the misery experienced by fellow juggernauts.