USD was close to reaching the West Coast Conference Tournament title game Monday night but Saint Mary’s was able to hold off a late surge by the Toreros for the 69-62 win in the WCC semifinals.
The Gaels (21-11, 11-5) were leading for most of the game when USD (21-14, 7-9) closed the gap halfway through the second half. Both teams then traded leads until Saint Mary’s pulled away with 8:35 left. The Toreros, however, still managed to keep it close.
Isaiah Wright made a 3-point jumper to pull USD to within two points, 60-62, with 1:19 left in regulation. That was as close as the Toreros got.
A pair of free throws from Tommy Kuhse on a Tyler Williams’ foul put the Gaels back up by four. Wright made a two-point game again with a layup with 32 seconds left.
Kuhse and Malik Fitts then made five of six free throws down the stretch for Gaels’ win.
Wright ended the night with 22 points for USD. Isaiah Pineiro had 16 points.
This was the first time the Toreros had reached the WCC semis since 2013. They had lost six straight tournament games before winning three straight in three days to reach this year’s semis. With the win over Santa Clara on Friday, USD had a second straight 20-win season — the first for the program since moving to Division I in the 1979-80 season.
The Gaels face No. 1 seed Gonzaga for the WCC title Tuesday.
USD, with its strong showing in the tournament, now awaits a postseason invite.