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Bouldin, Pargo power Gonzaga past Saint Mary's

Mar 2, 2008 - 5:33 AM SPOKANE, Washington (Ticker) -- Matt Bouldin and Jeremy Pargo helped prove that Gonzaga is still the team to beat in the West Coast Conference.

Bouldin scored 21 points and Jeremy Pargo had all 18 of his after halftime as the Bulldogs posted an 88-76 victory over No. 23 Saint Mary's on Saturday.

Freshman Austin Daye had 14 points and eight rebounds for the Bulldogs (23-6, 12-1 WCC), who moved one game ahead of the Gaels (24-5, 11-2) for first place in the conference with one contest left to play.

"It was a great basketball game," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "Both teams played really, really well. It was the makings of a championship game. "We got great efforts out of everybody at all different angles. Everybody that hit the floor did what they were supposed to do."

It was the sixth straight win for Gonzaga, which avenged its only conference loss of the season and is on the verge of clinching another conference championship.

The Bulldogs have had at least a share of the title for the past seven seasons, and can clinch its eighth straight WCC regular-season crown with a win over Santa Clara on Monday.

"We lost to a good team when they played well," Gaels coach Gary Bennett said. "I would feel worse if they played bad and we didn't get it done, but I thought they played pretty well."

The Bulldogs were in control through the early stages of the first half, and Bouldin's 3-pointer gave the Bulldogs a 30-20 bulge with 5:24 to play in the half.

But the Gaels came back, using a 10-0 spurt late in the half to take a 34-33 edge, before Gonzaga went back in front and held a 38-36 lead at the intermission.

Bouldin had 14 of his 21 points in the first half, while Pargo sat on the bench for most of the opening 20 minutes with two fouls.

"I thought Matt (Bouldin) was terrific in first half, especially with Jeremy (Pargo) being out so much," Few said. "We held them to a 40 percent field goal percentage, something we've been doing all year. We held them to 30 at the three line, where they have been making a lot of shots all year. It was a team night."

The lead changed hands seven times in the opening five minutes of the second half before the Bulldogs took charge with an 11-0 run - keyed by five points from Pargo - to take a 58-48 advantage with 12:57 remaining.

"I thought we took some bad shots there," Bennett said. "You don't want to do that. When they get a little momentum you have to be more patient, not try to get shots quicker."

Gonzaga led by at least six points the rest of the way and never was really challenged over the latter part of the second half. The Bulldogs shot 57 percent (17-of-30) during the final 20 minutes.

"Saint Mary's is a really, really good team and an NCAA Tournament team," Few said. "The biggest thing for us was we only had five turnovers in a really high possession game."

It was the 13th straight home win over Saint Mary's for the Bulldogs, who have not lost to the Gaels at home since January 21, 1995.

Diamon Simpson had 25 points and nine rebounds and freshman Patrick Mills scored 20 points for the Gaels, who finish their season at Portland on Monday.

If the Bulldogs lose and Saint Mary's wins on Monday, then the Gaels would gain a share of the conference title for the first time since 1997.