Brad Waldow

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

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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.

Weekly Awards: LaDontae Henton, West Virginia with notable performances

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LaDontae Henton (AP Photo)

Player of the Week: LaDontae Henton, Providence

I wrote a feature on Henton, the new star of the Providence Friars, on Sunday evening after I watched him go for 38 points — including seven points and two go-ahead baskets in the final two minutes — in a win over Notre Dame in the finals of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off. That came a day after Henton went for 24 points as the Friars blew out Florida State in the semifinals of that matchup.

It’s early, I know, but Henton is the best player in the Big East right now, the guy that will be taking over Bryce Cotton’s role as Ed Cooley’s go-to guy. He’s a bit undersized to be a power forward, and he’s not quite quick enough to be a full-time off-guard. But that doesn’t change the fact that Buckets can get buckets.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team

  • Angel Rodriguez, Miami: Angel Rodriguez scored 20 points in the final 6:47 — including this game-winner — to beat Florida in Gainesville. Rodriguez averaged 16.8 points, 5.3 assists and 3.0 steals while shooting 10-for-22 from three. He’s happy to be home.
  • Jonathan Holmes, Texas: Holmes was terrific for Texas at Madison Square Garden this week as the Longhorns picked up two wins in the 2K Sports Classic.
  • A.J. English, Iona: Iona went just 2-1 this week, but they won at Wake Forest and at North Texas while English averaged 28.7 points. He hit 13 threes this week.
  • Shannon Scott, Ohio State: The Buckeyes beat Marquette and Sacred Heart this week. Scott finished with 30 assists and five turnovers.
  • Brad Waldow, Saint Mary’s: The Gaels won three games against quality mid-major competition, and Waldow led the way, averaging 23.3 points and 8.7 boards.
  • Notables: E.C. Matthews (Rhode Island), Quinn Cook (Duke), James Blackmon (Indiana)
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Juwan Staten (AP Photo)

Team of the Week: West Virginia Mountaineers

The Mountaineers finally looked like a team that is coached by Bob Huggins this week. They’re now 5-0 on the season after winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, and it’s not just Juwan Staten stealing the show. The biggest difference with this team has been the play of Devin Williams and Jonathan Holton up front. WVU is defending, they are rebounding, they are getting physical in the paint. The highlight thus far? a 78-68 win over UConn where WVU looked like old school Huggy Bear, wearing down the Husky guards with some full court pressure.

They Were Good, too:

  • Miami Hurricanes: Angel Rodriguez and Sheldan McClellan led Miami to a 4-0 week, which included a title in the Charleston Classic and a win at Florida.
  • Creighton Bluejays: Who thought Creighton would be able to bounce back after losing Doug McDermott and the rest of that senior class? Well, they beat Oklahoma at home on Wednesday after erasing an 18 point deficit.
  • Northeastern Huskies: Northeastern won the mid-major version of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off on Sunday. That came after the Huskies knocked off Florida State.
  • Wyoming Cowboys: Larry Nance Jr. appears to be healthy these days, sparking Wyoming’s 56-33 win over Colorado on Saturday.
  • San Diego State Aztecs: SDSU scored a grand total of 104 points in two wins this week, but that’s perfectly fin if you allow an average of 38 points per game.

Saint Mary’s takes care of New Mexico State despite committing 22 turnovers

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New Mexico State and Saint Mary’s met early Tuesday morning, and something that wasn’t an issue for either team was energy as both teams played hard from the start. What was an issue, however, was the teams’ ability to execute offensively as the Aggies and Gaels combined to commit 38 turnovers. Saint Mary’s was the better of the two teams in regards to how they executed when they didn’t turn the ball over, shooting 54.2% from the field in the 83-71 victory.

Randy Bennett’s Gaels managed to score 1.1 points per possession despite turning the ball over on 29 percent of their possessions, with the team assisting on just over 69 percent of its made baskets. Emmett Naar (seven assists) and Kerry Carter (six) were responsible for 13 of Saint Mary’s 18 assists, with Carter also accounting for 12 points, nine rebounds and three steals as he just missed out on his second double-double in as many games.

By comparison New Mexico State shot just 36 percent from the field, with reigning WAC Player of the Year Daniel Mullings scoring a team-best 18 points to lead Marvin Menzies’ Aggies.

Mullings was one of three headliners to be hampered by early foul trouble, with teammate Tshilidzi Nephawe and Saint Mary’s forward Brad Waldow also picking up two first-half fouls. And while Nephawe was unable to get going in the second half the same couldn’t be said for Waldow, with the All-WCC player tallying 14 points and ten rebounds in the final 20 minutes.

Waldow finished the game with 16 points and 12 rebounds, and that performance combined with those of guards Carter and Aaron Bright (21 points, four assists) and forward Garrett Jackson (16 points, six rebounds) proved to be too much for the visitors from Las Cruces to overcome.

Saint Mary’s will undoubtedly look to clean things up offensively moving forward, as they committed 22 turnovers on the night. But even with that being the case, the Gaels’ work when they were able to take care of the basketball proved to be the difference.

Saint Mary’s should still be discussed amongst WCC contenders

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There’s no denying the fact that point guard Matthew Dellavedova graduated as one of the greatest players in the history of Saint Mary’s basketball. In four seasons at the WCC school “Delly” was a three-time All-WCC selection and a two-time honorable mention All-American. A personnel loss that big isn’t something a program simply glosses over and moves on, and for that reason more than a few prognosticators immediately decided that the Gaels were ill-equipped to challenge Gonzaga and BYU for the WCC title.

But now that they’re 8-0 on the season following an 82-74 win at Boise State on Saturday, it’s become quite apparent that it wasn’t wise to make that hasty conclusion.

Thanks to the hot shooting of Stephen Holt and James Walker III, who shot a combined 7-for-9 from three in the first half, Saint Mary’s led by as many as 16 points before the Broncos cut the margin to just two points at the half. More than a few teams in that spot would wilt when on the road against a formidable opponent, but Saint Mary’s didn’t. Instead the Gaels became even more balanced offensively, with four players scoring at least six points in the second half.

Holt led five players in double figures with 24 points and six assists, and the performance was his most productive of the season to date. With leading scorer Brad Waldow accounting for just five points in the first half the Gaels needed players to step up and Holt did just that, scoring 18 of his 24. It would be unfair to ask any one player to fully replace Dellavedova, given what the graduated point guard provided in both stats and intangibles. But it it isn’t unfair to expect Holt and Walker (can’t forget Kerry Carter either) to do much of the heavy lifting on the perimeter, and thus far they’ve done that.

It’s safe to say that Waldow’s going to score more than he did against Boise State (11 points, 11 rebounds), as he entered the game averaging a team-best 18.6 points per game. But with the guard play and the presence of forward Beau Levesque, a relatively quiet night for a player who’s one of the WCC’s best big men isn’t a deal-breaker for Saint Mary’s.

Next weekend the Gaels will play in the Diamond Head Classic, and with possible games against Boise State (semifinals) and No. 17 Iowa State (final) Saint Mary’s can potentially pick up another quality win or two before WCC play starts. But through eight games it’s become clear that at the very least Saint Mary’s can finish in the top three of the WCC for an 11th consecutive season.

And a conference title shouldn’t be considered unrealistic for this group either.

College Hoops Week in Review: J.J. ‘Manns’ Belmont’s great week, Ohio State shines

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: J.J. Mann, Belmont

Mann led the Bruins to two massive wins this week, scoring 23 points as Rick Byrd’s club came from 16 points down to beat Indiana State at home. That’s the same Indiana State team that went into Notre Dame and beat the Fighting Irish by 13. He followed up that performance by scoring 28 — including three threes in the final minute — as Belmont knocked off then-No. 12 North Carolina 83-80.

Belmont wasn’t exactly expected to put together wins like this this season, not when they lost Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark, their starting back court from a season ago. Clark is now with the Utah Jazz. The program has proven to be impressively resilient, however. It doesn’t matter who they lose, there’s always someone else in line.

They were good, too:

  • Perry Ellis, Kansas: While the freshmen dominated the conversation, Ellis finished with 24 points, nine boards and three steals in the Jayhawk win over Duke in the Champions Classic.
  • Shabazz Napier, UConn: Napier’s been the best player in the American this season, leading UConn with 13.5 points, 9.8 boards and 7.5 assists. He had a triple-double against Yale.
  • Treveon Graham, VCU: Graham went for 22 points, leading VCU in their win at Virginia. He also hit the game-winning three with 1.1 seconds left. He followed that up with a double-double against Winthrop.
  • Brad Waldow, St. Mary’s: Waldow averaged 16.3 points, 8.3 boards and 3.3 blocks in three wins this week, including 18 points, 10 boards, five assists and three blocks against North Dakota State.
  • Roberto Nelson, Oregon State: Playing in front of the First Family, Nelson went for 31 points and seven assists to lead the Beavers to a win at Maryland. He had 24 points and seven assists against Portland as well.

source:  TEAM OF THE WEEK: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State looked absolutely dominant on the defensive end of the floor in their 52-35 win over a good Marquette team in the Bradley Center on Saturday afternoon. The win becomes all the more impressive when you consider that LaQuinton Ross, the guy that everyone thought would be filling Deshaun Thomas’ role as leading scorer, didn’t score a single point. If Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson can be as good as they were on Saturday on a consistent basis, the Buckeyes have a chance to win the Big Ten.

They were good, too:

  • Belmont Bruins: Coming from 16 down to beat Indiana State and winning at North Carolina is a pretty good week for anyone, let alone a school in the Ohio Valley.
  • Kansas Jayhawks: Their one win this week? Duke at the United Center.
  • Michigan State Spartans: Tom Izzo’s club knocked off Kentucky in the Champions Classic and barely avoided a letdown game against Columbia on Friday.
  • VCU Rams: The Rams went 2-0 this week with their most impressive win coming at Virginia during the Tip-Off Marathon.
  • Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers have three terrific wins this season: St. John’s, Florida and at UW-Green Bay.
  • UMass Minutemen: UMass knocked off LSU during the Marathon and followed that up with a win over Youngstown State. Chaz Williams and Cady Lalanne are a really good 1-2 punch.

Who wants Brad Waldow’s tooth? Not Randy Bennett (VIDEO)

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It’s March. Things get a little rough in college basketball in March. We also know that not everyone is a dentist, or even claims to be.

Saturday night, Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett made it clear to his sophomore forward that he had no intentions of entering the field of dentistry, kindly pointing Waldow down to the trainer after he approached Bennett with a tooth in his hand. The tooth was knocked out by an elbow to the face during Saint Mary’s overtime win against San Diego.

Check out video below:

(h/t Run the Floor)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_