On a day when six other top-10 men’s college basketball teams lost, No. 1 Gonzaga also succumbed to an upset.
Saint Mary’s, ranked No. 23 in the Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll, came out on fire to build a big lead and did just enough to stave off the Bulldogs (24-3, 13-1 WCC) in hanging on for a 67-57 upset on Saturday.
Gonzaga, the clear-cut favorite to garner the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday, hadn’t lost since early December, ripping off 17 straight wins before Saturday’s setback. It was the team’s first loss this season in the West Coast Conference, which is vastly improved this year and features four teams in the projected tournament field in USA TODAY Sports’ latest bracketology. The ‘Zags hadn’t lost in WCC play since Feb. 22, 2020, when it lost at Brigham Young.
The Gaels (24-6, 12-3 WCC) got huge plays from their veterans. Tommy Kuhse (14 points) paved the way in the inspired effort to secure the upset. Matthias Tass (13 points), Alex Ducas and Logan Johnson (each with 10 points) joined Kuhse in double figures.
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Fans stormed the court at McKeon Pavilion, where the Gaels finished 16-0 this season.
“That’s really special,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said of his team’s perfect home record. “It’s been hard to get. We lost it one year to Loyola Marymount in our last home game. It’s been something hard to get and we finally got it. Especially when it’s against the No. 1 team in the country, it just makes it … a night you’ll never forget.”
Tass, a senior, said he “wanted to go in the middle of the circle and kiss the logo but people were running on the court so it was difficult.”
“It was definitely a surreal moment,” he added.
Gonzaga All-American and national player of the year front-runner Drew Timme played terribly, shooting 2-for-10 from the floor – including 0-for-8 in the first half as the Bulldogs fell behind 36-21 – to finish with six points.
“He got his touches but after three or four bounces we had three guys surrounding him and knocking the ball out of his hands in the first half,” Tass said. “That kind of ruined his rhythm. It was hard for him to bounce back from that.”
The ‘Zags also uncharacteristically turned the ball over 14 times, which did not pair well with a stale offense on the road (the Bulldogs shot just 36.7% from the field).
“They were extremely more aggressive. They got after us and played us really, really physical,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of Saint Mary’s. “That was it. When you’re the most aggressive team and most physical team, probably nine times out of 10 you’re going to win.”
The top five teams in the Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll top 25 lost on Saturday, with No. 2 Arizona (loss to Colorado), No. 3 Kentucky (loss to Arkansas), No. 4 Auburn (loss to Tennessee) and No. 5 Kansas (loss to Baylor) also falling. No. 7 Purdue (loss to Michigan State) and No. 9 Texas Tech (loss to TCU) rounded out a whirlwind day of upsets in the sport.
“It’s kind of life in late February and early March, especially on the road,” Few said of his team’s loss.
Gonzaga is still well-positioned to garner the top overall seed on Selection Sunday, although unlike last year the ‘Zags have lost several times. In 2020-21, the Bulldogs entered the NCAA Tournament with enormous pressure in attempting to go undefeated before falling to Baylor in the national title game.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.
Contributing: Associated Press