GAME NOTES: The Saint Mary's Gaels will be out for revenge as they host the San Diego Toreros for West Coast Conference action at McKeon Pavilion on Thursday.
San Diego surprisingly coasted past the Gaels for a 61-43 victory when these conference rivals squared off on Jan. 30. Coach Bill Grier's team failed to carry the momentum it used to down SMC into its February slate. The Toreros suffered their third loss in a row on Saturday, falling 69-63, to Santa Clara at home. Grier's emphasis on defense has left San Diego with the WCC's lowest scoring offense average at 67.3 ppg and a conference-leading allowance of only 64.4 ppg. The Toreros have been held under the 70-point mark in nine consecutive outings.
Randy Bennett's Gaels outlasted Pepperdine over the weekend for a 69-67 overtime victory over the Waves at Firestone Fieldhouse. The win lifted SMC to an 18-7 overall record which includes an 8-4 mark in WCC play. The Gaels have been dominant at McKeon Pavilion, where they have won 45 of their last 48 games. As a unit, SMC is producing 74.5 ppg, while limiting its foes to 66.1 ppg.
The Toreros' victory over SMC last month improved their all-time series lead to 41-36. The Gaels have won 10 of the last 12 meetings and own a six-game winning streak versus San Diego at home.
The Toreros have managed to avoid falling below a .500 overall record thanks to their dangerous backcourt trio of Johnny Dee, Duda Sanadze and Christopher Anderson. All three guards did their part in San Diego's six-point loss to Santa Clara at Jenny Craig Pavilion. Sanadze scored 23 points to pace the team while Dee chipped in 18 points. Anderson tallied 11 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and four steals in the defeat. Dee is leading all WCC players in made 3-point field goal attempts per game (2.9) and also ranks third in the league in scoring at 17.2 ppg. Sanadze has had a breakout sophomore campaign en route to an average of 13.3 ppg and the 5-foot-7 Anderson is contributing 10 ppg to go along with 5.8 apg. USD has a serviceable big man in senior forward Dennis Kramer, but does not have much depth or experience down the line.
Although four of SMC's starters average in double figures in scoring, Stephen Holt stole the show versus Pepperdine as he poured in a career-high 29 points. Holt had some assistance as Beau Levesque posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, Kerry Carter scored 11 and Brad Waldow pulled down 10 rebounds. Waldow, who finished just two points shy of a double-double, is the Gaels' leader with 16.6 ppg and 7.6 rpg. Holt's sensational outing improved his scoring average to 14.4 ppg. Levesque (10.8 ppg) and Carter (10.2 ppg) are both valuable assets on the offensive end. Carter is fourth in the WCC in makes from beyond the arc per game (2.1) and eighth in 3-point field goal percentage (.427).
USD does not appear to be operating with the same efficiency as it was when it took down the Gaels last month. SMC, which registered a season-low 43 points versus the Toreros in that contest, should have no problem overpowering the visitors with its much more effective collection of forwards.
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