LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jordan Ford scored 21 points and Saint Mary’s beat San Diego 69-62 on Monday night in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament.
Saint Mary’s (21-11) will meet top-ranked Gonzaga in the championship game for the eighth time in 11 years. The Gaels are 2-5 in the previous meetings, with their last championship coming in 2012.
The Gaels used a 13-4 run in the second half to steal momentum from the scrappy Toreros, who were playing in their first tournament semifinal since 2013.
Saint Mary’s improved to 53-36 all-time against the Toreros.
Saint Mary’s, which swept the regular-season series with San Diego, winning by an average margin of 18.5 points, built a first-half lead to 10, but had its hands full with a team that was brewing with confidence after winning three games in three days to arrive in the semis.
San Diego pulled within two with 32 seconds remaining, but Tanner Krebs and Malik Fitts nailed five of six free throws for the Gaels down the stretch.
Fitts finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, his sixth double-double of the season, while Tommy Kuhse chipped in with 15 points.
The Gaels dominated in the paint, outscoring San Diego 40-18.
The Toreros had lost six straight tournament games heading into this year’s event. But their second-round win over Santa Clara secured the team’s second straight 20-win season — the first time the program has accomplished the feat since moving to Division I during the 1979-80 season.
The Gaels will have less than 24 hours to prepare for their biggest nemesis. Gonzaga swept the regular-season series, winning by 48 in Spokane and 14 on Saint Mary’s home court in the season finale on March 2.
After the Toreros’ late-season push and strong showing in the WCC Tournament, they await their fate for a postseason invite.
The Gaels will face Gonzaga in Tuesday’s championship game.