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Tuesday, March 9, 2010
TMA: St. Mary's does it

By Eamonn Brennan

The Morning After is our daily recap of the night's best basketball action. Try not to make it awkward.

St. Mary's 81, Gonzaga 62: Well, that settles it, huh? The Gaels entered Monday night not really needing, but definitely wanting, a win over rival Gonzaga. St. Mary's was a No. 11 seed in Joe Lunardi's latest bracket; it managed to avoid an early WCC upset and had pretty much sealed its tournament fate. Surely a loss to top 15-ranked Gonzaga wouldn't hurt that fate, would it?

No matter: St. Mary's toppled Gonzaga, and how. ("And how": Totally underused phrase in 2010. We need to bring this thing back. And how! OK, I'll stop now.) Omar Samhan, the Gaels' leading scorer and rebounder, had a quiet night, but it didn't matter. Samhan's slack was picked up by a pair of efficient shooting performances from teammates, one expected, one not. Second-leading scorer Mickey McConnell dropped 26 points on 10 of 17 shooting, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Ben Allen -- the former Indiana forward -- made 4-of-6 from behind the arc, scoring a career high 20 points. That shooting was the main difference between the Gaels and the Bulldogs, who, at 45.9 effective field goal percentage, simply couldn't keep pace.

Again, the win was obviously a tournament guarantee for Randy Bennett's team, and it will no doubt help boost the Gaels' tournament seed, possibly into single-digit territory. But a quick look at the Gaels' postgame quotes: "Samhan, one of just two seniors in uniform for the Gaels, said he wanted this win 'more than anything else in my life.'" -- and you know it means a whole lot more. It's St. Mary's first win over Gonzaga in the WCC tourney in 10 tries. It's a major relief for a team consistently bullied by one of the best programs in the country. It's a big deal. And how.

Old Dominion 60, William and Mary 53; Siena 72, Fairfield 65 (OT): Two teams with tournament expectations, two wins, one excellent wrap piece by Andy Katz. Go to it. Oh, and that 0-313 streak we talked about yesterday? Make that 0-314. Oof.

Everywhere else: Humble IPFW ended its potential Cinderella run with a loss to a heavily favored Oakland team in the Summit League semifinals. ... Fellow Indiana-Purdue partner school IUPUI fared better in its Summit semi, hanging on to take a close win over Oral Roberts to advance to the Summit title game. ... Western Kentucky won't be making another appearance in the NCAA tournament, as Big Red (the best mascot ever, by the way) bowed out in the Sun Belt semifinal. ... The winner of that game, Troy, will take on North Texas in the Sun Belt championship Tuesday night.