Even when the Gaels win big, it doesn't help that much in the WCC. (Jacob C. Palmer/S.F. Examiner)

Saint Mary’s has no margin for error in WCC

MORAGA — Even after handling the University of San Francisco Dons 66-46 on Thursday night at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, the Saint Mary’s Gaels aren’t any closer to catching Gonzaga atop the West Coast Conference standings.

While the Gaels were busy dispatching the Dons and moving to 8-1 in WCC play, Gonzaga hammered San Diego in Spokane, Wash., 79-43, to improve to 9-0.

Gonzaga handed the Gaels their only conference loss back on Jan. 14 at McCarthey Athletic Center, 79-56. With four games to go before the teams meet again on Feb. 11 at McKeon Pavilion, Saint Mary’s has no margin for error.

“I think that’s part of being a good competitor is understanding that the challenge is before you,” head coach Randy Bennett said. “And it is a challenge. I mean, as a coach, I’ve been doing this 32 years. It’s a challenge — just to stay locked in on one week at a time, one game at a time.

With Santa Clara, Pacific, San Diego and Portland on the docket before the rematch with Gonzaga, the Gaels will likely have to be perfect if they’re going to have any chance of tying using that game against the Zags to draw level.

“There’s a lot of pressure,” Bennett added. “And you’ve got to block all that out and just focus on being as good as you can be every game, but yeah, I think our guys are doing a pretty good job of it. We still have nine to go, so we’re not done. We have to continue to do it. And it does get tough down the stretch — having been through it a number of times.”

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