SPOKANE, Wash. — It was almost as if Omar Samhan was left to do battle with 16th-ranked Gonzaga by himself.

Saint Mary's 6-foot-11 senior rock had 21 points and 11 rebounds, but his inside presence was more than negated by the deeper Zags, who pulled away for an 80-61 victory in the showdown for first place in the West Coast Conference at sold-out McCarthey Athletic Center on Thursday night.

The Gaels (21-4, 8-2 WCC) had won six straight since Gonzaga's 89-82 victory in Moraga.

Guard Matt Bouldin sparked the Zags (20-4, 8-1) with 18 points, half in the first eight minutes of the second half when Gonzaga broke the game open. After that the Zags' inside game took over. It was anchored by 7-foot sophomore Robert Sacre, who finished with 13 points, and 6-8 freshman Elias Harris, who had 14 of his 19 points in the second half.

"They're hard to guard, tough matchups for everybody but especially for us," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "Harris is a tough matchup. He's pretty versatile. We did a good job on him the first half, but he's so quick, aggressive on the boards, good in transition.

"And Bouldin is a tough matchup for anybody. You have to have a really good defender to guard him, somebody with size, quickness, somebody who's pretty smart. "... Bouldin's a heck of a player."

The fortunes of the Gaels seemed to turn on a play made by the most unlikely Zag, seldom-used 7-5 senior Will Foster.

With 15 minutes left, Saint Mary's was trailing 52-46, Gonzaga's biggest lead to that point, when Foster blocked Samhan before he could get the ball out of his hands. Samhan was called for traveling when he fell down on the loose ball, and the crowd of 6,000 went wild.

Bouldin quickly knocked in a 3-pointer to ignite a 9-0 run that pushed the Zags' lead to 15.

Saint Mary's never recovered, in part because three starters picked up their fourth fouls before the 13-minute mark.

The Gaels shot 37 percent and were hurt by 17 turnovers, six above their average.

"Their defense bothered us, and we didn't defend very well," Bennett said after his team's sixth straight loss to Gonzaga. "We let their defense affect us offensively, turned it over, gave them transition, took bad shots. You can't turn it over 17 times against these guys and expect to win."

Also, point guard Mickey McConnell, who is second on the team in scoring at 13 per game, was scoreless. Matthew Dellavedova, who had 11 points, had just two free throws in the second half.

"They have good depth, but our guard play has to be better," Bennett said. "Our overall team play has to be better."

On the other end, Gonzaga shot 54 percent and had only 11 turnovers, two in the second half.

Next game: Saturday, at Portland, 6 p.m.
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Louella Tomlinson sets two records, but Gaels fall. Page 3