PORTLAND, Ore. — Logan Johnson scored 20 points and fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s took advantage of No. 12 seed Indiana’s grueling recent schedule, rolling to an 82-53 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.
Tommy Kuhse added 19 points and six assists for the Gaels (26-7), the only team to beat Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference this season. Saint Mary’s will play the winner of the East Region’s late game between No. 4 seed UCLA and 13th-seeded Akron.
Trayce Jackson-Davis had 12 points for Indiana (21-14), which arrived in Portland on Wednesday morning after an all-nighter because of flight delays from Dayton following the First Four. The Hoosiers won their first tournament game since 2016 by beating Wyoming 66-58 on Tuesday night.
Thursday’s game was Indiana’s fifth in seven days. Saint Mary’s came in fresh from a 10-day layoff after falling to the Bulldogs in the WCC Tournament title game.
Saint Mary’s pulled away late in the first half and led by as many as 34 points – and the overtaxed Hoosiers couldn’t catch up.
The Gaels, ranked No. 19 in last AP Top 25, earned their highest seed ever in 11 NCAA Tournament appearances. Their best finish in the tournament came in 2010, when they went to the Sweet 16.
Saint Mary’s stature in the tournament was no doubt boosted by its 67-57 win at home over No. 1 Gonzaga on Feb. 26.
Indiana, which has won five NCAA championships, was making its 40th tournament appearance.
At least at the start, Indiana wasn’t showing any fatigue. The Hoosiers had a narrow lead for much of the half until Alex Ducas’ 3-pointer that put Saint Mary’s in front 25-21. The Gaels extended the lead to 33-26 on another Ducas 3.
Saint Mary’s ground Indiana down and led 40-28 at the half. Ducas, a junior from Australia, finished with 13 points.
The Gaels stretched the lead to 55-31 in the second half on Kuhse’s 3-pointer.
A LITTLE HELP?
When the ball got stuck between the backboard and the shot clock early in the second half, the players tried with no success to get it free. A ref even stood on a folding chair to try and poke it free, to no avail.
Enter Indiana’s resourceful cheer squad: A cheerleader lofted by a male counterpart was able to rescue the ball.
Indiana: The only previous meeting against Saint Mary’s was way back in 1957. The Hoosiers won, 79-66 in Bloomington. … Jackson-Davis averaged 18.4 points and 8.2 rebounds.
Saint Mary’s: Bennett, in his 21st season with the Gaels, was named the WCC Coach of the Year. He’s won the honor four times. But the latest comes after turning around a team that struggled last season to finish 14-10. … Saint Mary’s wore warmup jerseys that read “No Quit.”
The winner will play the winner of Thursday’s late game in Portland between UCLA and Akron on Saturday.