MORAGA, Calif. (AP)Logan Johnson scored 29 points in the final home game of his career and No. 15 Saint Mary’s clinched at least a share of the West Coast Conference regular-season title with an 83-52 victory over Pacific on Thursday night.
”It’s nice that we were able to clinch a share of it on our home court,” coach Randy Bennett said. ”I wanted to make sure they would get recognized and win out on their home court the right way. … For them to be able to win this thing on our home court, I definitely wanted the crowd to be able to show their appreciation.”
Alex Ducas added 17 points and Mitchell Saxen scored 11 for the Gaels (25-5, 14-1). Saint Mary’s is assured no worse than a tie for first place in the conference for the first time since 2015-16 and can secure its first outright crown since 2011-12 by winning at No. 12 Gonzaga on Saturday night.
The Gaels held a trophy ceremony at midcourt after the game and put on championship T-shirts. But the celebration didn’t last long, with a bigger game looming.
”About 10 more minutes until I shower and go home,” Ducas said of how long he’d celebrate this win. ”We’ll get our minds right. We have bigger things to focus on. There’s plenty more time to celebrate after the season is done.”
The Gaels wrapped up their second straight perfect home season in conference play with a victory that gave them 25 wins for the 12th time in the last 16 seasons.
Jordan Ivy-Curry scored 11 points to lead the Tigers (13-17, 6-9), who have lost five of six.
Johnson helped break the game open early, sparking a 21-6 run that gave Saint Mary’s a 33-16 lead midway through the first half. He scored 12 points during that stretch, including a pair of 3-pointers to cap it.
Johnson finished with 20 points in the half as the Gaels led 48-31 at the break.
Saint Mary’s was never threatened in the second half, with Ducas’ 3 making it 68-35 midway through the half.
The Gaels honored their three senior starters before the game: Johnson, Ducas and Kyle Bowen.
All three have started every game the past two seasons, helping Saint Mary’s earn a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament last year and putting the Gaels in position to win the conference title this season.
”These three guys are special,” Bennett said. ”We may never have a group of three leaders, as seniors, as good as these guys. I know what special looks like and these guys are special.”
Ducas and Bowen could choose to return for a fifth season because of the 2020 campaign impacted by COVID-19 but haven’t made a final decision.
Saint Mary’s reserve Matt Van Komen also was honored.
Pacific: The Tigers lost their 34th straight game against a ranked opponent since beating No. 21 Providence in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels have won four straight since their lone slip-up in conference play, an overtime loss at Loyola Marymount two weeks ago. But their toughest test yet comes in the finale at Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s won the first matchup at home 78-70 in OT earlier this month.
Pacific: Hosts Portland on Saturday.
Saint Mary’s: Visits No. 12 Gonzaga on Saturday night.
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