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Ryan Connors | | March 13, 2019

How Saint Mary's clinched an NCAA tournament bid and ended No. 1 Gonzaga's WCC title streak

Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett reacts to beating No. 1 Gonzaga

Saint Mary's clinched a bid to the NCAA tournament on Tuesday night in shocking fashion, upsetting No. 1 Gonzaga 60-47 in the WCC tournament final in Las Vegas.

Saint Mary's is in the big dance for the second time in three seasons, as the Gaels made it to the 2017 NCAA tournament after a three-year absence. Here's how it happened.

Saint Mary's took advantage of Gonzaga's slow start, then clamped down in the final minutes

Gonzaga started out cold, only shooting 40 percent from the field in the first half, and was just 1-for-7 on 3-pointers. Saint Mary's only shot a bit better than that, but it was enough for a 3-point lead at halftime.

The Gaels were not messing around as things progressed. They continued to bottle up the Zags, as Brandon Clarke's efficient play was the only successful part of Gonzaga's scoring attack on Tuesday.

This kind of game was unheard of against Gonzaga this season.

This was a one-point game with nine minutes to play. That lead increased to five, then ballooned to 13 as Saint Mary's went on an 18-2 run in the final five minutes.

Saint Mary's is going dancing

The Gaels weren't in Andy Katz's field of 68 Tuesday morning. They would have been waiting on pins and needles come Selection Sunday had they not been able to beat the Zags. They didn't leave the decision up to anyone else.

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By winning this game, Saint Mary's guaranteed its spot in the field of 68.

Of course it came down to Gonzaga and Saint Mary's

The two titans of the West Coast Conference have now played in eight of the last 11 conference championships games. But Gonzaga's dominance isn't exactly a secret. The Bulldogs had won the previous six tournament titles, while Saint Mary's was able to claim championships in 2012 and 2010.

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Gonzaga was dominant in the regular season. The Zags came into the game at 30-2, and held the No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll and the NET coming into the championship. Saint Mary's was No. 37 in the NET with a 21-11 record. Two of those losses were to Gonzaga — and both were blowouts. When the teams met on Feb. 9, the Zags went nuclear for a 94-46 win. The Gaels were in a bit better form this time around.

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