No. 16 Saint Mary’s fends off BYU, advances to WCC title game

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Alex Ducas recorded 23 points and seven rebounds to help No. 16 Saint Mary’s post a 76-69 victory over BYU on Monday night in a West Coast Conference semifinal game at Las Vegas.

Aidan Mahaney added 18 points for the top-seeded Gaels (26-6), who never trailed and led by as many as 26 points before having to hold on down the stretch. Mitchell Saxen scored 12 points and Logan Johnson added 10 for Saint Mary’s.

The Gaels will face either second-seeded Gonzaga or sixth-seeded San Francisco in Tuesday’s WCC title game. Those teams were set to play later Monday night.

Spencer Johnson scored 13 points and Richie Saunders added 11 for the fifth-seeded Cougars (19-15), who got back into the game with a 39-16 second-half run.

The contest was BYU’s final as a member of the WCC. The Cougars are joining the Big 12 for the 2023-24 season.

Saint Mary’s shot 51.1 percent from the field, including 7 of 15 from 3-point range, while beating BYU for the third time this season.

The Cougars made 49 percent of their shots and were 4 of 14 from behind the arc.

BYU trailed 56-30 with 14:43 remaining before it began its frantic dash.

The Cougars eventually moved within single digits when Gideon George made three free throws with 4:50 left to cut the Saint Mary’s lead to 64-56.

Ducas responded with a 3-pointer to end a run of nine straight BYU points. But Dallin Hall and George followed with baskets as the Cougars crept within 67-60 with 3:31 left.

Saunders scored on a reverse layup to pull BYU within 69-64 with 1:08 remaining. Mahaney made two free throws five seconds later to make it a seven-point margin before Hall buried a 3-pointer with 52.5 seconds left.

Mahaney split two free throws with 38.3 seconds remaining before Rudi Williams’ basket brought BYU within three with 32.9 seconds left.

However, Kyle Bowen’s layup with 27.7 seconds left made it a five-point margin and Saint Mary’s survived the BYU charge.

Mahaney scored 12 first-half points as the Gaels held a 37-20 halftime lead.

Early in the second half, Ducas made two treys and sank a jumper during an 8-2 run as the Gaels pushed the lead to 47-26 with 17:10 left in the game.

Williams hit a jumper before Saint Mary’s scored the next seven points with Saxen capping it with a three-point play to make it a 26-point advantage with 15:25 left.

–Field Level Media

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Field Level Media was founded by sports media executives with more than 40 years of combined experience working with the most influential media companies in the industry.

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