No. 17 Saint Mary’s wins WCC regular-season title, beating Pepperdine for 16th straight victory

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MALIBU, Calif. (AP) — Augustas Marciulionis had 17 points and 11 assists, Luke Barrett added 14 points and No. 17 Saint Mary’s beat Pepperdine 83-57 on Thursday night to win the West Coast Conference regular-season championship.

The Gaels (24-6, 15-0) extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 16 games in wrapping up their first outright regular-season championship since 2012. Saint Mary’s has one game left — at home against No. 23 Gonzaga on Saturday — to try to run the table in the conference.

“It’s hard to do. They’ve come a long way from the start of the season to now,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said about winning the WCC outright. “That was the goal going into this and they got it done. Hard to do with Gonzaga in the league. I think it’s happened two times in the last 22 years, that’s how hard it is.”

Marciulionis tied his career high with the 11 assists.

“It’s a really good feeling to have that title and not share it with anyone,” he said.

Saint Mary’s had a low-key celebration on the court at Firestone Fieldhouse, then celebrated with the conference trophy in the locker room. Bennett described the celebration as mild.

The Gaels had a 22-2 run to build a 49-25 lead late in the first half. When the teams played two weeks ago in Moraga, Saint Mary’s won by 44 points.

“I thought we defended well,” Bennett said about the game-breaking run. “Chris Howell came in and helped us make it thought for them to score. I thought that was the difference. I think Chris was plus-19 in the first half. They didn’t get any easy baskets with him on the floor.”

Jevon Porter led Pepperdine (12-19, 5-11) with 22 points.

Pepperdine starting guard Houston Mallette was injured midway through the second half and hobbled off the court with assistance. He didn’t return to the game and was on crutches with an ice pack around his right knee.

The Gaels now turn their attention to Gonzaga on Saturday.

“It’s a huge rivalry. It’s probably one of the best rivalries in college basketball,” Marciulionis said. “And we’re playing in front of our own students and our own crowd. If nothing else, but 100% of your effort and energy is expected from you. That’s what we’ll give on Saturday."

Pepperdine Hall of Fame announcer Al Epstein called his 1,191-straight game in his 39 seasons.

BIG PICTURE

Saint Mary’s: After starting the season 3-5, the Gaels have been on a tear and have won 21 of their last 22 games as they head into the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas with the No. 1 seed.

Pepperdine: There was just one player honored on senior night, Ethan Anderson, so the five freshmen and six sophomores hope to ensure the future is bright.

UP NEXT

Saint Mary’s: Hosts No. 23 Gonzaga on Saturday.

Pepperdine: West Coast Conference Tournament.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball