NCAA

Saint Mary's drubs BYU, sets up showdown vs Gonzaga for WCC title

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AP

Saint Mary's drubs BYU, sets up showdown vs Gonzaga for WCC title

BOX SCORE

LAS VEGAS -- Jock Landale had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and No. 19 Saint Mary's never trailed in an 81-50 victory over BYU on Monday night in the West Coast Conference semifinals.

Calvin Hermanson added 14 points and Emmett Naar had 12 points and 11 assists for the Gaels (28-3), who hit 13 3-pointers and earned a third chance to play nemesis Gonzaga in the title game Tuesday.

The fourth-ranked Bulldogs, who beat Saint Mary's twice in the regular season, held off Santa Clara 77-68 in the first semifinal.

T.J. Haws scored 13 points for the cold-shooting Cougars (22-11), who handed Gonzaga its only loss but faces long odds to reach the NCAA Tournament.

With third-seeded BYU missing 22 of 32 first-half shots, second-seeded Saint Mary's raced to a 36-20 lead. Hermanson then hit a 3-pointer as the Gaels scored the first five points in the second half, and they led by as many as 35 points in their sixth straight win.

BYU's Eric Mika was held to 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting after scoring 25 in Saturday's quarterfinal win over Loyola Marymount. BYU shot 32 percent from the field in bowing out in the WCC semifinals for the second straight year after reaching the final in 2014 and 2015.

It was another efficient offensive outing for Saint Mary's. Landale hit 8 of 12 shots from the field and all eight free throws while securing his 15th double-double of the season. The Gaels shot 56 percent from the field and went 13 of 25 from 3-point range.

Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett rested most of his regulars over the final 5 minutes ahead of Tuesday's championship game. The Gaels lost at Gonzaga 79-56 on Jan. 14 and 74-64 at home to the Zags on Feb. 11.

They haven't lost since.

BIG PICTURE:
BYU: The Cougars eclipsed 20 wins for the 12th straight season, but an RPI of 63 entering the game hurts their NCAA hopes despite the stunning win at Gonzaga on Feb. 25. BYU has losses to Utah Valley (210 RPI) and San Diego (203).

Saint Mary's: The Gaels came to Las Vegas with one goal: get another crack at Gonzaga. The only other team they lost to was Texas-Arlington on Dec. 8.

UP NEXT:
BYU: The Cougars will await their postseason fate amid optimism for a team that didn't start a senior over their final eight games. BYU has played in the postseason 11 straight years.

Saint Mary's: Beating Gonzaga on Tuesday night would give the Gaels their first WCC title since 2012.

Quinnen Williams, possible Raiders draft target, misses mark in Alabama's loss

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USATSI

Quinnen Williams, possible Raiders draft target, misses mark in Alabama's loss

SANTA CLARA -- Quinnen Williams proved Monday night that he can talk a big game, even if he doesn’t play one.

The Alabama defensive tackle, whom many project to be a top-five pick if he leaves school for the 2019 NFL draft, didn’t exactly show out in the College Football Playoff National Championship at Levi’s Stadium. The redshirt sophomore finished with just four total tackles (three solo, one assist) and 1.5 for loss.

Williams went relatively unnoticed in Clemson’s 44-16 rout, except for this first-quarter stop that showcased his power.

Williams, who entered the game tied for second on the Crimson Tide with eight sacks this season, didn’t register any noticeable pass rush -- to be fair, no one on Alabama did -- as the Tigers handily won the title.

Still, Williams wasn’t that impressed by what he saw from the now-national champions.

“They really didn’t do anything that caught us off guard,” Williams said. “We knew everything that was coming. They ran zone. They ran go routes, 50-50 balls.

“[Clemson QB] Trevor Lawrence threw the ball, and it looked like he put it on the money. He didn’t drop dimes, none of that. He threw it up, and the receivers made plays. All the respect to the receivers.”

While Williams later called Lawrence “good,” his comments were reminiscent of his pre-Orange Bowl words on Kyler Murray, when he smartly stopped himself from criticizing Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Williams showed no such restraint this time, and while you could chalk it up to the hurt of losing a national title game, NFL teams surely will ask him in pre-draft interviews about how he'll handle such situations.

As for his NFL draft status, Williams didn’t want to say much, claiming he really hadn’t thought about the possibility of turning pro after the season.

“I don’t know yet, man,” he said. “I got to go home, watch this film first, get with my teammates and let them know, man, everything.”

New Raiders general manager Mike Mayock, whose team has been linked to Williams with the No. 4 overall pick in numerous mock drafts, saw the defensive tackle in person Monday. Whether he liked what he saw or heard remains to be seen over the next three months.

DeAndre Hopkins explains how Clemson keeps producing NFL-level talent

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AP

DeAndre Hopkins explains how Clemson keeps producing NFL-level talent

SANTA CLARA -- The Clemson Tigers came into Monday night's College Football Playoff National Championship with a shorter list of 2019 NFL Draft talents than their counterparts, the Alabama Crimson Tide. But not if you ask some notable alumni.

To Houston Texans All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the next wave of NFL stars are Tigers.

“The way they prepare here at Clemson, the strength and condition program, Joey Batson and Larry Greenlee do a good job of getting those guys ready for the next level," Hopkins told NBC Sports Bay Area after Clemson's stunning 44-16 blowout win in the title game at Levi's Stadium. "I think they’re definitely ready for the next level."

Clemson has produced 29 picks in the last five NFL drafts. The last time the program didn't have one of its players called come April was all the way back in 2002.

Watching with former Clemson stars Deshaun Watson, Vic Beasley Jr., Mike Williams, and Tajh Boyd, Hopkins witnessed one of the greatest teams in college football history. The 2018 Tigers accomplished a feat 121 years in the making, becoming the first FBS football team to go 15-0 or 16-0 since Penn in 1897.

“To me, it means a lot. I’m from Clemson, S.C., so to see this team do what they did … I think they are (the greatest ever)," Hopkins said. "I think they can be one of the best teams ever. Do it again next year, for sure.”

The last statement is what means the most to Hopkins and everyone else who once wore a Clemson Tigers jersey. Coach Dabo Swinney took to the podium immediately after the win and said he'll soak it all up now, but he'll get back to film Friday and start preparing for next season.

“I think this is the next dynasty," Hopkins said. "Deshaun Watson started it by winning a national championship here. I think those guys are going to continue it.

"I think they’re gonna be here next year and the year after.”

That's not hard to imagine, either.

Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence wowed with his precision passing, throwing for 347 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. His top target, Justyn Ross, made one-handed catches as a recently turned 19-year-old and finished the night with six catches for 148 yards and two TDs.

Clemson made its fourth playoff clash with Alabama look easy. The biggest names in the NFL know, too, that these could be the next stars of not only Saturdays but Sundays before we know it.