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Bouldin leads Gonzaga past Saint Mary's

Feb 13, 2009 - 8:16 AM MORAGA, California (Ticker) -- Though it barely held on for a victory, Gonzaga strengthened its grip on the West Coast Conference.

Matt Bouldin scored 21 points and Josh Heytvelt had 20 and 10 rebounds as No. 21 Gonzaga held on for a 72-70 victory over Saint Mary's on Thursday.

The win moves Gonzaga (18-5, 9-0 WCC) two games ahead of Portland (7-2) atop the WCC as the Bulldogs vie for their ninth straight regular-season crown. The Bulldogs were coming off a 68-50 non-conference setback to Memphis on Saturday.

Gonzaga was outrebounded, 45-33, but managed to hand Saint Mary's its first home loss of the season.

"It was important for us to try and match their passion," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "There were a couple times when they were hustling and beating us to the ball. For the most part we did a good job disrupting them a little bit."

Gonzaga trailed by two with 8 1/2 minutes to play but used an 11-2 run - capped by Bouldin's 3-pointer - to take a 67-60 advantage with 4:11 remaining. Saint Mary's went scoreless for over five minutes before Wayne Hunter's layup cut the deficit to 67-62 with 1:20 left.

Carlin Hughes made a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute, including a desperation banked shot from the right side of the arc, which cut the deficit to 71-70 with 9.9 seconds remaining.

Bouldin missed a pair of free throws but the Gaels turned the ball over on an inbounds play near halfcourt with five seconds left. Jeremy Pargo made one of two to give the Bulldogs a two-point lead and Hughes' 3-point attempt from the midcourt line clanged off the backboard to give Gonzaga the win.

Hunter finished with a career-high 18 points and Diamon Simpson added 12 and 15 rebounds for the Gaels (19-5, 6-4), who have lost four of their last five games. Leading scorer Patrick Mills, who broke his right hand in the loss to Gonzaga on January 29, is expected to be remained sidelined until the WCC tournament.

Saint Mary's got off to a good start, building a 21-12 lead midway through the first half before Gonzaga fought back.

Bouldin made a pair of 3-pointers during a 15-3 Bulldogs run as Gonzaga took a 27-24 edge with 5:35 to play before the break. The teams traded baskets for the rest of the half and Heytvelt's 3-pointer tied the score at 36-36 at the half.

"He's putting together a really fine senior year," Few said of Heytvelt. "We knew it was going to be physical and tough (going against Omar Samhan and Simpson), and to get 20 and 10 is quite an accomplishment."

Simpson tied the score with a dunk and followed with a steal and breakaway layup to give the Gaels a 44-42 lead with 17:08 to play.

Saint Mary's pushed the lead up to five but then went scoreless for over six minutes as Gonzaga scored nine consecutive points for a 53-49 lead with 10:16 remaining. The Gaels made 3-pointers on their next three possessions to take a brief 58-56 lead with 8:36 left.

Hughes finished with 14 points for the Gaels, who committed 17 turnovers.