MORAGA, Calif. (AP) Graham Ike scored 24 points and No. 23 Gonzaga bolstered its NCAA Tournament hopes by handing No. 17 Saint Mary's its first conference loss of the season, 70-57 on Saturday night.

The Bulldogs (24-6, 14-2 West Coast Conference) have won eight straight games since losing at home to the Gaels (24-7, 15-1) on Feb. 3, with three of them being Quad 1 wins.

“We’re playing our best basketball. It’s March and that’s a great sign,” coach Mark Few said. “To come into this environment, against this team - I have a massive amount of respect for just how they compete and how prepared they are and how they play together. It’s a heck of a win.”

Ike has led the way during Gonzaga's recent run, becoming the first Zags player to score at least 20 points in seven consecutive games since Adam Morrison in 2005-06.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Ike said. “Credit to my guys. I wouldn’t be here without them. It’s really a team award. We’re just going to keep getting better. That’s all that matters to us.”

He had plenty of help against Saint Mary's: Ryan Nembhard added 20 points and 10 assists, while Ben Gregg scored 12.

Aidan Mahaney had 16 points and Mitchell Saxen added 13 for the Gaels, who came in with the nation's longest winning streak at 16 games.

“They executed offensively at a way higher level than we did," coach Randy Bennett said. "That’s a combination of us not being very good offensively and not very good defensively.”

There was much more on the line in this game for the Bulldogs than the Gaels, who clinched their first outright conference title since 2012 with a win at Pepperdine on Thursday night.

Gonzaga played like the hungrier team, using a 14-0 run to open a 24-12 lead midway through the first half. The Bulldogs made nine straight shots against the nation's second-stingiest scoring defense as Nembhard repeatedly got to the basket and Ike dominated in the post to build a 44-28 halftime advantage.

Saint Mary's tried to mount a push in the second half, scoring 10 consecutive points early to get the deficit down to single digits. But Gonzaga answered every charge and was never seriously threatened in the second half.


Gonzaga: The Bulldogs' streak of 24 straight NCAA Tournament berths was in jeopardy before this surge, but Gonzaga heads into the WCC Tournament with a good chance of receiving an at-large bid if necessary.

“I don’t follow that stuff because it’s just amateurs,” Few said. “Amateur hour. I’m 60 now, so I don’t have to deal with that stuff. I love these guys, and I’ll help them. We’re going to hopefully get better and play better next week. Play my pickleball and get out with my dogs and call it good.”

Saint Mary's: The Gaels relied on their defense and protecting the ball during the winning streak. But they allowed Gonzaga to shoot 64% in the first half, and their 13 turnovers were their most since the WCC opener.


Gonzaga: WCC semifinals on March 11 in Las Vegas.

Saint Mary's: WCC semifinals on March 11 in Las Vegas.


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