First place on line as No. 12 Gonzaga visits No. 18 Saint Mary’s

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Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are the co-powers of the West Coast Conference but their series has been largely one-sided over the past six-plus seasons.

The No. 12 Bulldogs are seeking their 16th win in the past 19 meetings with the No. 18 Gaels when the teams clash on Saturday night at Moraga, Calif.

The Gaels (20-4, 9-0 WCC) are in first place in the conference race and also are seeking their 12th consecutive victory. Gonzaga (19-4, 8-1) is in second place due to a stunning 68-67 home loss to Loyola Marymount on Jan. 19.

Saint Mary’s features a strong defense that ranks fourth nationally in points allowed at 57.2 per game. The Bulldogs, always a high-caliber offensive team, lead the country in scoring offense at 86.4 per contest.

Gonzaga star Drew Timme has achieved many accomplishments during his career. The latest was becoming the third member of the school’s 2,000-point club during Thursday’s 88-70 home victory over Santa Clara.

Timme had 15 points to increase his total to 2,007, eight behind second-place Jim McPhee (1985-90). Frank Burgess (2,196 from 1958-61) is the school’s all-time leading scorer.

“It’s kind of crazy, to be honest,” Timme said afterward. “I hit that number in high school and it’s pretty cool. It’s a lot of points. Like I’ve been saying all year, it’s super cool, but as long as we win that puts a smile on my face.

“We can enjoy the milestones when I’m done here.”

Timme averages 21.1 points per game and is shooting 60.4 percent from the field.

Anton Watson scored 18 points on 8-for-8 shooting to lead the Bulldogs and Rasir Bolton added 16 points.

“Some other guys are stepping up and finding their offense,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Anton was spectacular again and he’s doing it at both ends. We lean on him so hard on the defensive end, we thought we had some things we could go to with him on the offensive end and he delivered. Especially delivered a little bit when Drew was struggling in the first half.”

While Gonzaga had to travel Friday, Saint Mary’s remained at home in the Bay Area after the Gaels delivered a 68-59 victory over San Francisco.

Saint Mary’s also had a milestone to crow about as coach Randy Bennett won his 500th career game. He is in his 22nd season at the tiny university east of Oakland.

“That’s special,” Bennett said about accumulating 500 victories at one school. “It’s hard to do. It’s just cool to do it at one place, so hopefully we’ll get some more. I’m glad it happened at one place.”

Saint Mary’s long pattern of success that includes 16 20-win campaigns during Bennett’s tenure tends to make people forget he took over a program that went 2-27 in 2000-01.

“It’s really hard to think about it in any other way than that right now,” Bennett said. “In time you’ll reflect back, and the memories you’ll have of the players and coaches. That’s why we’re sitting here. We’ve had really good players, really good assistant coaches and great administration, and I work at a great place.”

The Gaels had to fight off a San Francisco charge on Thursday before sealing the victory. Alex Ducas scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half and Aidan Mahaney scored 13 of his 17 in the second half.

Mahaney, a freshman, leads Saint Mary’s with a 14.8 scoring average.

The Gaels defeated the Bulldogs 67-57 in last season’s meeting in Moraga.

–Field Level Media

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