LAS VEGAS -- Selection Sunday won't be as relaxed as the Saint Mary's College men's basketball team had hoped.
That's because Gonzaga claimed the West Coast Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament by beating the Gaels 75-63 in the championship game Monday at the Orleans Arena.
Saint Mary's (24-8) still has a good chance to earn an at-large bid, but a win over the Bulldogs would have eliminated any trepidation the Gaels might have had.
"It is what it is. You can't control it," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "The only thing we can control is how we play Friday (against Weber State), so that's the only thing I'm worried about."
In the rubber match of a heated series this season, No. 2 seed Gonzaga (24-9) pulled away late, thanks to good free throw shooting, tight defense and foul trouble for the No. 1 Gaels.
Mitchell Young was the first to foul out, exiting at the 6:03 mark. At that point, Gonzaga led 58-53. Rob Jones had to leave soon thereafter, picking up his fifth foul with 5:27 left.
All the fouls put Gonzaga into the bonus early, and the Bulldogs made Saint Mary's pay from the line. They scored 10 of their last 12 from the stripe, burying the Gaels down the stretch.
Offensively, Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova delivered typically outstanding performances, but there wasn't much else to draw from as the Gaels tried to stay in it. McConnell finished with 24 points, and had an ice pack on his left knee after the game to show for it. Dellavedova had 21, but no other Gael had more than six points.
"I'm not sure what changed offensively for us," Bennett said. "Obviously, playing without Jones is a pretty key part of our deal. Foul trouble affected us, again. Second time in that game it's been a factor. We needed to get stops and we couldn't get enough stops. I think that's the bottom line."
The lack of another option especially reared its head late, and the Bulldogs were able to focus their defensive efforts on McConnell and Dellavedova almost exclusively.
"We've really been doing a nice job of playing defense down the stretch of these games," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "We made it tough to score, and then we finally got a little bit of rhythm on the offensive end."
Gonzaga achieved that balance, with four players finishing in double figures. Steven Gray led the way with 15 points, and Robert Sacre (12), tournament MVP Marquise Carter (11) and Sam Dower (10) all contributed as well.
One pivotal play came early in the game. Jones picked up his second foul with 10:31 left in the first half, called for a block instead of the charge he was trying to take. He argued the call, though, and seconds later was hit with a technical foul and, subsequently, his third personal.
Gonzaga lost Gray for a stretch as well, as he had to head to the locker room with a cut above his left eye. In true Las Vegas fashion, though, Gray got four stitches in the locker room, covered it up and returned with 7:30 left in the half.