For a minute there, it looked as if Saint Mary’s was ready to pull off an upset at Orleans Arena for the second straight year.
The Gaels — who knocked off Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament championship game in perhaps the biggest upset of championship week last year — rallied back from an early deficit with an 8-0 run and went into the locker room down just a single point to the Bulldogs on Tuesday night in Las Vegas.
Yet by the midway point of the final period, that dream was long gone.
No. 1 Gonzaga surged ahead in the second half to beat No. 3 Saint Mary’s 84-66 and win the WCC tournament for the 18th time.
Jordan Ford led the Gaels with 27 points while shooting 7-of-15 from the field, and Malik Fitts finished with 17 points and nine rebounds with four 3-pointers.
Joel Ayayi led Gonzaga with 17 points and seven rebounds. Drew Timme added 17 points off the bench while shooting an impressive 7-of-8 from the field. Corey Kispert added 12 points, and Filip Petrusev had a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
The win almost certainly secures a No. 1 seed for Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament, which would mark its third time in four years in that top spot.
North Dakota State blows out North Dakota
The Summit League tournament championship game wasn’t much of a game at all.
North Dakota State, after opening the game on a massive 21-2 run, cruised to an 89-53 win against North Dakota at the Sanford Premier Center, easily earning its spot in the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.
Hofstra earns first bid since 2001
For the first time in nearly two decades, Hofstra is headed back to the Big Dance.
Hofstra, after cruising past Drexel and Delaware in the first two rounds, beat No. 6 Northeastern 70-61 to win the CAA tournament and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. It marked its first CAA tournament title and the school’s first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2001.
Northern Kentucky wins Horizon League
Though it nearly saw its early double-digit lead disappear in the second half, Northern Kentucky is headed back to the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years.
The Norse made it past UIC 71-62 on Tuesday to win the Horizon League.
Robert Morris wins Northeast Conference
Thanks to a huge push in the second half, Robert Morris earned its first trip back to the Big Dance in five years.
Robert Morris, after quickly mounting a 19-point lead in the second half, beat Saint Francis 77-67 in the Northeast Conference championship, its ninth NEC tournament title.
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