NCAA

Saint Mary's overwhelmed, loses WCC title game to Gonzaga

gonzaga-saintmarys-wcc-2017-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Saint Mary's overwhelmed, loses WCC title game to Gonzaga

BOX SCORE

LAS VEGAS -- Nigel Williams-Goss scored 22 points, Przemek Karnowski added 15 and No. 4 Gonzaga won its fifth straight West Coast Conference Tournament title by beating No. 19 Saint Mary's 74-56 Tuesday night.

Gonzaga (32-1) was not particularly sharp in the WCC semifinals, beating Santa Clara by nine to reach the title game for the 20th straight season.

The Zags got their mojo back in a dazzling first half against Saint Mary's, then had to hold on after a shaky start to the second.

Gonzaga shot 50 percent and had a 38-22 advantage inside, staking claim to a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Saint Mary's (28-4) fought back after an ugly first half, but couldn't overcome a 21-point deficit for its third loss to the Zags this season.

Calvin Hermanson had 14 points and Jock Landale 10 for the Gaels, who must wait out selection Sunday for the second straight season.

Gonzaga and Saint Mary's in the WCC final has become an annual tradition.

The conference's top two teams have met in the title game seven of the past nine years, with the Zags winning six titles, including the past four.

Gonzaga won the two regular-season meetings this year fairly easily, beating the Gaels 79-56 in Spokane, 74-64 in Moraga.

The Zags won their first 29 games of the season before a home loss to BYU, which Saint Mary's beat by 31 after hitting 13 3-pointers in the WCC semifinals.

The Gaels didn't have the same shooting touch against Gonzaga's smothering defense, needing nearly 11 minutes just to crack double figures scoring. Saint Mary's was discombobulated offensively throughout the first half, hitting 6 of 28 shots and turning it over 10 times while scoring 18 first-half points.

Gonzaga turned the missed shots and turnovers into baskets in transition, using a 12-0 run to build a 39-18 halftime lead.

The Gaels were better to start the second, shutting the Zags down while trimming the lead to 51-46 midway through.

They got no closer. Landale had to leave after picking up his fourth foul and Gonzaga took advantage, stretching the lead back to double digits.

BIG PICTURE:
Gonzaga will likely contend for No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament's West Regional with the Pac-12 Tournament winner.

Saint Mary's should have a good enough resume to make the NCAA Tournament despite the loss, but could have some anxious moments on selection Sunday after being left out last season.

UP NEXT:
Saint Mary's will likely play in the NCAA Tournament.

Gonzaga is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the 19th straight season.

Louisville has 'effectively fired' head coach Rick Pitino

pitino-sad-ap.jpg
AP

Louisville has 'effectively fired' head coach Rick Pitino

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville has placed coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich on administrative leave amid a federal bribery investigation.

Jurich is on paid leave, while Pitino is on unpaid leave. The coach’s attorney, Steve Spence, told the Courier-Journal Wednesday that Louisville has “effectively fired” Pitino.

Pitino’s exit comes after the school acknowledged on Tuesday that the men’s program is part of a federal investigation into alleged bribery of recruits. The 65-year-old coach was not named in the indictment that resulted in the arrest of 10 people including four assistant coaches at other schools and an Adidas executive.

It is the latest black eye for the Cardinals program. Pitino and Louisville are in the middle of appealing NCAA sanctions following an embarrassing sex scandal.

Jurich has supported Pitino through his transgressions during the athletic director’s nearly 20-year tenure at the university.

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

cal-usc-ap.jpg
AP

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

BOX SCORE

BERKELEY -- Stephen Carr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown two plays after Southern California's defense forced one of its six turnovers and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their 13th straight game, 30-20 over California on Saturday.

USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has dominated the series with its in-state rival by winning 14 straight against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1), but this was one of the tightest matchups in years as the game was tied early in the fourth quarter.

Sam Darnold threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans but also had an interception and was under pressure for much of the day.

It was the defense that stepped up for USC, intercepting a pass from Ross Bowers in the first quarter to set up a field goal and then delivering the big play early in the fourth quarter after Chase McGrath gave the Trojans a 16-13 lead with his third field goal of the game.

Josh Fatu knocked the ball out of Bowers' hand and Uchenna Nwosu recovered the fumble at the 3. Carr ran it in two plays later from the 2 to make it 23-13.

Ykili Ross then intercepted Bowers' pass on the next possession, setting up Darnold's 4-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett that put away the game.

Bowers finished 22 for 50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles.

THE TAKEAWAY

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Trojans struggled for much of the game without starting RB Ronald Jones (ankle) and WR Steven Mitchell (groin) but managed to pull away late in their first road game of the season.

CALIFORNIA: The Bears used an improved defense to start 3-0 under first-year coach Justin Wilcox but this was supposed to be the test of how far they had come. Cal showed plenty by sticking with a national title contender for three quarters. A sequence on the opening drive of the second will haunt the Bears. Patrick Laird dropped a potential TD in the end zone and Matt Anderson then missed a 29-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 13.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

A win against an unranked team should do little to alter USC's poll position.

UP NEXT

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 18 Washington State on Friday.

CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.