Tag: Saint Mary’s Gaels

Cuonzo Martin
Associated Press

California completes non-conference schedule

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With a solid group of veterans being joined by one of the top recruiting classes in the country, California is expected to rebound from a 2014-15 season in which they didn’t play in a postseason tournament in a big way in 2015-16. Thursday afternoon the program announced that it has completed its non-conference schedule, with the Golden Bears hosting fellow Bay Area program Saint Mary’s December 12.

“This should be a great game. Our two Bay Area schools have a strong basketball tradition,” California head coach Cuonzo Martin said in the release. “We have not played one another in more than a decade and I know our fans will appreciate the matchup. We are fortunate that a game between our two schools worked out on the schedule this year. Hopefully, we will be able to compete against one another more often in the future.”

Martin’s team, which will be led by senior point guard Tyrone Wallace and includes talented options such as juniors Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews and freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, is expected to contend in the Pac-12 as well as make some waves nationally. In addition to the game against Saint Mary’s, Cal will play in the Las Vegas Invitational November 26-27 against San Diego State with West Virginia and Richmond matching up in the other semifinal.

The Golden Bears will play just two true road games before the start of Pac-12 play, but both of those matchups provide interesting challenges. Wyoming, which will host the Golden Bears December 5, lost four starters from last season’s NCAA tournament team but the altitude in Laramie (the highest in Division I) is even higher than what Cal experiences in road games at Utah and Colorado.

And the other road non-conference game should rate among the best in the country this season, as Cal will visit Virginia December 22. Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers have finished atop the ACC standings (regular season) in each of the last two seasons, and they’re expected to contend again in 2015-16.

Saint Mary’s lands Rivals150 guard in Class of 2016

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Saint Mary’s landed an impact guard on Monday as Rivals150 guard Jordan Ford pledged to the Gaels. The 6-foot-0 native of Folsom, California was down to a final three of Oregon State, UC-Santa Barbara and Saint Mary’s before deciding on the WCC program.

Regarded as the No. 138 prospect in the Class of 2016, Ford can score or distribute and should be a really nice fit in head coach Randy Bennett’s system. During the spring and summer with the Oakland Soldiers, Ford played in 20 games and averaged 12.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He also shot 43 percent from the field, 38 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line in EYBL play.

Ford is Saint Mary’s first commitment in the Class of 2016 and represents a great start going forward for the group.

No. 3 Gonzaga takes away Saint Mary’s best scoring option in blowout victory

Kyle Wiltjer, Desmond Simmons
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In recent years the rivalry between Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga has developed into one of the best in the western United States, with the combination of skilled players and high stakes resulting in intense match-ups whether the game was being played during the regular season or WCC tournament. Thursday night the two programs met in Spokane with matching 7-0 conference records, and with Brad Waldow serving as their anchor in the post the Gaels are the biggest threat to Gonzaga’s quest to win yet another WCC regular season title.

But after Waldow accounted for ten points and five rebounds in the game’s first 20 minutes, keeping Saint Mary’s well within striking distance, the senior power forward was kept in check by the Gonzaga big men and the Bulldogs eventually won by the final score of 68-47.

Saint Mary’s may have shot a slightly higher percentage in the second half than they did in the first, but a lot of that damage was done early and with their primary scoring option neutralized the Gaels struggled mightily as the half wore on. Mark Few’s team shot 52.9% from the field on the night, with Kevin Pangos leading three players in double figures with 14 points while also dishing out five assists, and they limited Saint Mary’s to 36 percent shooting.

Against Waldow (14 points, 6-for-13 FG) the Bulldogs mixed things up defensively, sometimes defending him with a single player and in other spots sending over a second big to double Waldow. With Przemek Karnowski, Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer (they combined for 30 points and 31 rebounds) at his disposal, Few is able to defend a big man of Waldow’s caliber in multiple ways. With Waldow less effective, the Bulldogs were able to put together a 19-2 second half run that removed any doubt as to which team would win the game.

While Gonzaga has always been praised for its ability to put points on the board, the strides made defensively the last two years have been overlooked by some. This isn’t a group that’s going to rack up the “glamour” stats that tend to be referenced when the nation’s best defenses are discussed, as they’re in the middle of the pack nationally in both steals and blocks per game.

But they’re solid when it comes to positioning and limiting quality looks, forcing opponents to make contested shots more often than not. That’s resulted in Gonzaga leading the WCC in field goal percentage defense (38.4%) and trailing only Pepperdine in three-point percentage defense (30.6%). Thursday night, in addition to their 36 percent night from the field Saint Mary’s mad just two of its 15 three-pointers with guard Aaron Bright going scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting (0-for-5 3PT).

Thursday’s game can be viewed as Saint Mary’s missing out on an opportunity to bolster their resume with a win over the best team they’ve faced to date. But this was about Gonzaga, with the Bulldogs taking away Saint Mary’s best offensive option in the second half and handing the Gaels their biggest defeat of the season.