It was a very competitive game tonight as the Saint Mary’s Gaels knocked off the North Dakota State Bison 78-65 picking up their third straight win at home.
The Bison came to town 1-0. They are the overwhelming favorite to win the Summit League this year. They were ranked sixth in the mid-major poll, which is their highest ranking ever. The Gaels were ranked 19th in the same poll. The two teams had never played each other before tonight.
Early in the first half, the Gaels were down 7-6 with 15:38 left. Off a Brad Waldow layup at 14:52 the Gaels went up 8-7. They would never trail again.
The Gaels built an 11 point lead off of two Beau Levesque free throws with 3:58 remaining. The Bison would not give up. After a buzzer-beating 2-pointer from Lawrence Alexander, the Gael lead was cut to seven closing the half 34-27.
The Gaels in the first half went 11-for-27 (41 percent) from the floor. They put up 4-for-9 (44 percent) from behind the arc. Leading the way was Brad Waldow with seven. Kerry Carter had six and Stephen Holt put up five.
The Bison were 10-for-27 (37 percent) from the floor and were just 1-for-7 (14 percent) from 3-point land. Taylor Braun led the way with eight and Lawrence Alexander had four.
The second half was a tough battle for the Gaels as the Bison came out of the locker room charging. They chipped away at the Gael lead cutting the gap to 51-49 with 9:33 to play. That would be as close as the Bison would get as the Gaels stayed strong and pulled out another solid victory.
Coach Randy Bennett has placed a key focus on defense. The Gaels defense has been solid giving up an average of 66 points for the first three games. Jordan Giusti has been a key defensive component thus far and put up five points tonight.
For the game, the Gaels went 25-for-47 (53.2 percent) from the floor and finished 6-for-13 (46.2 percent) from behind the arc. Brad Waldow led the way with 18. Beau Levesque had 14.
From the Gaels bench, Matt Hodgson had 10 and Carter finished the night with nine off of three 3-point shots.
The Bison went 26-for-58 (44.8 percent) from the floor and were essentially shut down from 3-point territory with a dismal 1-for-13 (7.7 percent). Marshall Bjorklung led the Bison with 23. Braun had 14 and Alexander finished the night with 12.
The Gaels move to 3-0 and the Bison drop to 1-1. The Gaels next face Drake Saturday night. Tip off time is 7 p.m. Pacific.