SPOKANE, Wash. — The raucous student section at No. 2 Gonzaga’s arena had no doubt where the Zags should be ranked when The Associated Press’ Top 25 comes out on Monday.
“We’re No. 1! We’re No. 1!” the students shouted as the clock wound down in Gonzaga’s 81-52 victory over Portland on Saturday.
Coach Mark Few was a little more restrained, noting the polls are out of his control.
“It’s never happened here before,” Few said of a No. 1 ranking. “It would be an honor. If they think that highly of us we’ll take it.”
But a minute later Few also betrayed some amazement that the little Jesuit school from Spokane could reach the pinnacle of college basketball.
“At the end of the day it would be pretty cool for Gonzaga to be No. 1,” Few said. “My first year here we won four Division I games.”
Elias Harris scored 20 points and Kelly Olynyk added 15 points and 11 rebounds for Gonzaga (29-2, 16-0 West Coast), which had already clinched the West Coast Conference regular season title and the top seed in next weekend’s tournament. Gary Bell Jr. added 14 points.
Gonzaga, winner of 12 consecutive games since a last-second loss at Butler, has escaped the losses that have afflicted other teams at or near the top of the poll in recent weeks. That included a loss by top-ranked Indiana to Minnesota earlier this week that opened the door for the Bulldogs.
The Zags have never been ranked higher than their current No. 2 position. But because of their lightly regarded conference schedule, there is a chance a lower team could leapfrog them in the poll. Gonzaga’s only other loss was at home to Illinois in December.
Few noted Gonzaga’s 16-0 conference record is a first for the recently expanded WCC. And no Gonzaga team has ever won 30 games in a season.
But the goal is not to pile up numbers, he said.
“We want to go to the NCAA tournament and try to win the thing,” Few said.
Harris said he didn’t care if Gonzaga was ranked No. 1. He would prefer that Gonzaga continue to play as well as it has been playing into the postseason.
“Everything else is talk if you don’t play well,” Harris said.
Derrick Rodgers scored 10 points for Portland (11-20, 4-12), which has lost 18 straight to Gonzaga dating to 2003.
The game concluded the regular season for both teams. Gonzaga is virtually assured a 15th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.
No. 3 DUKE 79, No. 5 MIAMI 76
DURHAM, N.C. — Duke’s Ryan Kelly scored a career-high 36 points in his return from a foot injury that had sidelined him since January.
Kelly was 10 of 14 from the field — including 7 of 9 from 3-point range— for the Blue Devils (25-4, 12-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who avenged a blowout road loss in January by grinding out a tough win in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Quinn Cook added 15 points as Duke built a 10-point lead with about 2 minutes left then held off a frantic rally by Miami.
Shane Larkin scored 25 points to lead the Hurricanes (23-5, 14-2), who missed two 3s in the final seconds to tie it. Larkin came up short on the first over Kelly. Durand Scott ran down the rebound and fired a pass to the left corner to Rion Brown, whose final 3 clanged off the rim as the horn sounded.
No. 6 KANSAS 91, WEST VIRGINIA 65
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Ben McLemore scored a Kansas freshman-record 36 points, and Jeff Withey came within one block of a triple-double.
McLemore, a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman, went to the bench with a little more than 5 minutes left after hitting 12 of 15 shots from the field, including 5 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc. He had seven rebounds and four assists.
Withey’s nine blocks ran his Big 12-and Kansas-career record to 281. He had 14 points and 10 rebounds as the Jayhawks (25-4, 13-3 Big 12).
No. 8 FLORIDA 64, ALABAMA 52
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Casey Prather had 10 points and nine rebounds, most of them in the second half, and Florida rallied from an eight-point deficit.
The Gators used a 15-0 run late in the second half — fueled by Prather — to pull away from the Crimson Tide and remain unbeaten at home.
Erik Murphy led Florida (23-5, 13-3 Southeastern Conference) with 15 points. Kenny Boynton added 13, and Scottie Wilbekin chipped in 11.
No. 10 LOUISVILLE 58,
No. 12 SYRACUSE 53
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Luke Hancock hit a 3-pointer from the corner to break a tie with 50 seconds left for Louisville, which lost to Syracuse earlier this season.
It was the third straight loss for Syracuse (22-7, 10-6 Big East).
Louisville (24-5, 12-4) snapped a three-game losing streak against Syracuse, and the Cardinals did it before a stunned crowd of 31,173.
Russ Smith led Louisville with 18 points, Hancock had 12, all on 3s, and Gorgui Dieng finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
C.J. Fair had 19 points to lead the Orange, James Southerland added 13 and Michael Carter-Williams 11.
No. 14 NEW MEXICO 53,
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Alex Kirk had 15 points and nine rebounds and New Mexico clinched the Mountain West Conference regular season title.
The Lobos (25-4, 12-2 MWC) went 21 for 27 from the free throw line in winning or sharing the title for fifth time in the last six seasons. Cameron Bairstow contributed 13 points and nine rebounds and Kendall Williams had six assists for the Lobos.
Riley Grabau scored 14 points for the Cowboys (18-11, 4-11).
New Mexico closed the first half on a 13-6 run after Kendall Williams picked off a pass deep in the Wyoming end and turned it into a dunk just before the buzzer for a 25-19 lead.
No. 15 OKLAHOMA STATE 78,
STILLWATER, Okla. — Markel Brown scored 18 points, Le’Bryan Nash added 16 and Oklahoma State corralled Texas star Myck Kabongo.
A showcase of two of the Big 12’s marquee point guards ended up being a sloppy one, with Kabongo committing a career-high seven turnovers while the Cowboys’ Marcus Smart had five.
Oklahoma State (22-6, 12-4 Big 12) took advantage of two of Kabongo’s turnovers to score the final eight points of the first half and start an 18-2 run that carried beyond halftime. By the time it was over, the Cowboys were firmly in front at 47-33 after Nash drove through traffic for a right-handed slam.
The Longhorns (13-16, 5-11) couldn’t duplicate their comeback from a 22-point deficit in the final 8 minutes of regulation in an overtime win against Oklahoma on Wednesday night.
No. 19 MEMPHIS 76,
CENTRAL FLORIDA 67
ORLANDO, Fla. — Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford both scored 19 points and Memphis claimed its eighth Conference USA championship.
Adonis Thomas added 12 points for the Tigers (25-4, 14-0 CUSA), who gave coach Josh Pastner his 100th career win, all at Memphis.
VCU 84, No. 20 BUTLER 52
RICHMOND, Va. — Troy Daniels scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half and VCU’s full-court pressure overwhelmed Butler from the outset.
In a much anticipated rematch of their unlikely meeting in the national semifinals in Houston in 2011, the Rams (23-6, 11-3 Atlantic 10) dominated, forcing 14 turnovers in the first half, one more than Butler’s average for a game, and converted them into 24 points on their way to a 45-21 lead.
Butler (22-7, 9-5) scored the first seven points after halftime to close within 17, but Briante Weber and Treveon Graham both scored five points in a 10-4 run and it was pretty much over, allowing the Rams to clinch one of the top four seeds in the conference tournament later this month.
No. 22 MARQUETTE 72,
No. 21 NOTRE DAME 64
MILWAUKEE — Jamil Wilson tied his career-high with 19 points and Chris Otule added a season-high 16 on 8-of-8 shooting as Marquette won its 25th consecutive home game.
Wilson scored 17 points in the second half, including seven down the stretch, for the Golden Eagles (21-7, 12-4 Big East). His two free throws were the final points in the game.