GAME NOTES: Back on the mainland, the Gaels of Saint Mary's try to put an end to a three-game slide tonight as they clash with the Pacific Tigers in the West Coast Conference opener for both programs at the Spanos Center.
The Gaels were undefeated after nine games as they headed to Hawaii to take part in the Diamond Head Classic last week and figured to have favorable matchups given the field for the eight-team event, but that simply wasn't the case. In fact, not only did the Gaels end up on the losing side of the tourney bracket following a 78-71 loss to South Carolina in the opening round, the team then bowed to both Hawaii (76-74) and George Mason (65-63) to finish last in the event.
As for the Tigers, a team which is a perfect 4-0 at home, they seem to be picking up speed as they enter league play, having won five of the last six outings. Granted, Pacific did come up quite short in an 83-58 setback against Princeton during the South Point Holiday Classic in Las Vegas on Dec. 20, but it bounced back with a 71-55 romp over Bradley the very next day.
The Gaels lead the all-time series by a count of 66-43, posting a convincing 74-46 victory in the most recent meeting last December in Moraga, California.
The Gaels had every chance to break out of their Honolulu slump and post a win against George Mason in the final game of the tournament on Christmas Day, but the team was doomed by a mere 14-of-24 showing at the free-throw line. Utilizing just three reserves, SMC relied heavily on the starters as Stephen Holt and James Walker both tallied 14 points, followed by Brad Waldow with 10, but the big man was limited by foul trouble and managed to clear just three rebounds.
Waldow leads the team in both scoring (17.1 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg) and is also tops with 22 blocked shots, but considering his free-throw accuracy (.577) is far worse than his shooting from the floor overall (.651), having him playing late in tight games might not always be the best option for the Gaels now. Holt (13.1 ppg), Walker (12.1 ppg) and Beau Levesque (11.3 ppg) are each shooting better than 42.0 percent behind the 3-point line at the moment, lifting the entire group to an impressive 42.5 percent on the perimeter, compared to a mere 30.1 percent for the competition.
Aside from turning the ball over 17 times, the Tigers played a solid game against Bradley the last time out as they limited the Braves to just 31.4 percent shooting from the field and 6-of-18 behind the 3-point line. Tony Gill was the lone starter to score in double figures for Pacific with 11 points, as reserves T.J. Wallace and Aaron Short delivered 14 and 10 off the bench. Wallace, who was saddled with four turnovers, knocked down 4-of-7 shot beyond the arc.
After 11 games the Tigers are scoring 75.9 ppg and have four players hitting for double figures, but none of them are scoring more than 11.6 ppg (Andrew Bock). Gill checks in with 11.5 ppg on the strength of 52.1 percent accuracy from the field, followed by Sama Taku with 11.4 ppg and Ross Rivera 10.0 ppg off the bench. Thanks to Gill and Taku who are both pulling down 5.0 rpg, the Tigers are beating opponents on the glass by an average of 5.6 rpg per contest.
As long as Waldow can stay on the floor and out of foul trouble the Gaels will have a solid presence in the paint. However, Pacific can still give the visitors a run for their money and quite possibly send SMC to yet another loss.
Game Date and Time