LAS VEGAS — Not long after top-ranked Gonzaga received the West Coast Conference tournament trophy, an arena full of Zags fans started a chant of No. 1!
Big, deep, athletic, tough-minded, not to mention dominating and willing to play defence — it would be hard to argue that.
Kelly Olynyk of Kamloops had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Gonzaga bolstered its case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament by routing Saint Mary’s 65-51 in the West Coast Conference final Monday night.
“It was a complete game,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We really played a complete game.”
The Zags have had plenty of those this season.
Already headed to the NCAA tournament for the 15th straight season, Gonzaga (31-2) sure had the look of a No. 1 seed against the West Coast rivals, dominating at both ends.
The deep Zags shot 52 per cent, dominated inside and teamed up to hound Gaels leading scorer Matthew Dellavedova everywhere he went. Elias Harris added 19 points and Gonzaga had a 42-18 advantage in the paint to win its 14th straight game.
But instead of hopping up and down at their accomplishment, the Zags gave a few high-fives and hugs amid the streamers falling from the ceiling, a subdued celebration for a team that has eyes on a bigger prize.
“You’ve got to enjoy your successes, but you have to be short-minded in the sense that it’s not the end of the year for us and we still want to come out and make some noise in the tournament,” Olynyk said.
This season, the Zags broke through a barrier en route to 30 victories for the first time: No. 1.
Behind Olynyk, the long-haired Canadian with the Seattle-grunge vibe and way-above-the-rim game, Gonzaga lost just two games — to ranked teams — and became the first team to go 16-0 in the WCC. That earned the Bulldogs a spot atop The Associated Press poll for the first time last week.