NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch: Soaring Temple on good side of bubble

Ruben Hill
March 15, 2019

But while Gonzaga's lackluster showing in the final gets top billing thanks to their No. 1 ranking, what shouldn't be lost is the great game plan and execution by Saint Mary's.

Exhausted of all the chatter, the Gaels put an emphatic end to it, popping the bubble by taking down a team no one outside their program thought they could beat. With the victory, Saint Mary's clinched a berth in the NCAA tournament after a one-year hiatus.

"We were told to pull off a miracle by people who don't know us", said Saint Mary's guard Jordan Hunter, who had 12 points and 15 rebounds. The Gaels contained Gonzaga standout and leading scorer Rui Hachimura, who averages 20.1 points per game this season, to nine points. Gonzaga shot 37.5 percent of from the field, and Bennett knew that getting an off shooting night was the flawless complement to his gameplan. Gonzaga had six assists after finishing with 26 in the WCC semifinals against Pepperdine. Mark Few is one of the best coaches in the country and sure to address the issue in practice between now and the NCAA Tournament, but there's no doubt this performance is not what Gonzaga fans wanted to see at a time when you'd like to see a championship contender playing its best basketball.

Gonzaga were expected to dominate after winning 30 of their 33 games this season, but St Mary's, headed by Sydney centre Jordan Hunter and Hobart guard Tanner Krebs, never faltered.

Two of those wins came against Saint Mary's: 66-55 in Moraga and 94-46 in Spokane. We were able to keep them out of transition and take care of the ball.

The Nor'easters (2-2) scored the first seven goals of the game - with two goals each from both Nichole Carvalho and Casey Conwell - and opened a 13-3 halftime lead to beat the Eagles (0-1) at Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Saint Mary's narrowly failed to reach the NCAA Tournament previous year after falling to Brigham Young in the second round of the conference tourney.

Saint Mary's continued to bog down Gonzaga and Fitts scored eight quick points to open the second half. The Gaels extended the lead to 48-41 with 7½ minutes left and answered every time Gonzaga tried to make a run. "We knew they were going to get their buckets, we just knew we needed to make it tough for them". That's what losing a game by 13 points that you were projected to win by 15 can do.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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