After a dismal 0-3 showing in Hawaii, the Saint Mary’s Gaels traveled to Stockton to face the Pacific Tigers tonight in their West Coast Conference opener. The Gaels were trying desperately to turn the losing streak around. They pulled it off in a hard-fought victory 88-80. This game also marked the first game of a five-game suspension for recruiting violations for Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett.
In the first half, the Gaels tried to tame the Tigers by building an eight-point lead (21-13) with 12:27 to play. The Tigers battled back and the game was tied 22-22 with 9:00 minutes in the half.
With just three seconds to play in the first half, James Walker III hit a 3 from downtown. This doubled the Gael lead to six points. At the half, the Tigers were sent to the locker room trailing 45-39.
In the first half, the Gaels had two players in double digits. Stephen Holt had 13 and Walker had 12. For the Tigers, Andrew Boch had 10 first half points.
For the half, the Gaels were still struggling in the paint. They gave up 20 paint points while only scoring 10. The Gael bench was shut down while the Pacific bench put up 13.
In the second half, Pacific started with a 5-0 run cutting the Gael lead to just one point; (45-44). The Gaels remained scoreless for almost four minutes. Finally Brad Waldow hit a layup getting the Gaels on the board. This was the start of a 7-0 run which brought the Gael lead to eight; (52-44) with 14:46 to play. The Gaels would build the lead to as high as 13 but the tigers kept fighting.
With 1:25 to play, the Gaels were up 82-72. The Tigers started a full court press and were fouling the Gaels as they tried to battle back. At first, this strategy worked. With 42.3 seconds left in the game the Gael lead was cut to just five; (85-80) The Gaels held on and pulled out their 10th victory of the season.
Statistically tonight the Gaels went 27-for-52 (51.1 percent) from the floor and were 13-for-26 (50.0 percent) from behind the arc. They struggled again from behind the line going 21-for-33 (63.6 percent). All the starters hit double-digits for the Gaels tonight. Leading the way was Beau Levesque with 18. Kerry Carter, Stephen Holt, and James Walker III, all had 15. Brad Waldow had 14.
For the Tigers, they finished 26-for-55 (47.3 percent) from the floor, and were just 4-for-16 (25.0 percent) from threes. From the line, they went 24-for-30 (80.0 percent). Leading the way was Andrew Bock with 23. Sama Taku had 17 and Ross Rivera had 10. The Tigers drop to (9-3) on their season.
The now (10-3) Gaels next travel up north to Face Gonzaga on Thursday. The action starts at 6 p.m. Pacific.