The Saint Mary’s Gaels faced their longtime Bay Area rival Santa Clara Broncos Thursday night at McKeon Pavilion to a nearly sold-out crowd.
Thursday marked the fifth and final game of head coach Randy Bennett’s suspension. In comparison, the University of Missouri was able to choose the games of its suspension, the Gaels were not. The question is; why did the NCAA come down so hard on the Gaels and not other teams?
Tonight after a solid first half performance the Gaels fell hard losing 57-55.
In the first half, the Gaels opened with a Brad Waldow 2-pointer with 19:20. This was followed by A Kerry Carter lay-up at 18:24 giving the Gaels an early 4-0 lead.
John McArthur of the Broncos, who averages 4.1 points per game, hit a three from downtown at 16:22 giving the Broncos their first score of the night.
By the media time out at 11:43 the Gaels had built the lead to 12-5. Off a rainbow three at 7:45, James Walker III nailed the basket extending the Gael lead to 21-11. A Waldow 2-pointer followed giving the Gales a 9-0 run with 7:31 to play. Santa Clara was forced into a much-needed re-grouping time out.
With 2:57 to play in the half, the Gaels held on to a solid 12-point lead 28-16. The Gaels sent the Broncos to the Locker room down 29-20.
Statistically for the half the Gaels went 12-for-29 (41.3 percent) from the floor and were 2-for-8 (25.0 percent) from behind the arc. The Gaels still struggled from the line going 3-for-5 (60.0 percent).
The Broncos went just 9-for-27 (33.3 percent) from the floor. They were also 2-for-8 (25.0 percent) from 3. The Broncos never got to the line in the first half.
The second half was disastrous for the Gaels. The Broncos opened up with a 5-0 run. With 18:50 to play in the game they were right back in the game down 29-24. By 15:56 off a 16-5 Bronco run from the end of the first half, the game was tied 34-34. The Gaels answered back with a 6-0 run of their own and were back up 40-34 with 14:20 to play. Then, here came the Broncos with a 7-0 run and took their first lead at 11:51; 41-40.
In a hard fought battle, the Gaels finally re-took the lead 48-47 with 3:47 left in the game. The battle continued and with just 21.1 seconds left, Stephen Holt hit a 3-pointer and the Gaels re-took the lead 55-54.
Here is where strategy becomes a key play. Had the Gaels fouled early instead of late, perhaps they could have forced a turnover. Unfortunately, the Gaels waited nearly 16 seconds before fouling. Jared Brownridge of the Broncos was able to nail a near 3-pointer with 0.2 second to play. The Gaels suffer a very tough loss and drop to 2-2 in the WCC. The Broncos move to 3-2.
For the night, the Gaels finished 21-for-56 (37.5 percent) from the floor and were 4-for-16 (25.0 percent) from behind the arc. Waldow led the way with 17. Both Levesque and Walker III had 12.
The Broncos finished 24-for-51 (47.1 percent) from the floor. They shot 15-for-24 (62.5 percent) in the second half. From 3, they were 8-for-12 (66.7 percent). Two players scored the vast majority of the Broncos points tonight. Jared Brownridge had 23. Brandon Clark had 20.
A major factor of the Gaels struggle tonight involved Waldow, Levesque and Carter sitting out too much. Holt also struggled against the SCU defense and only had seven points Hopefully the return of Randy Bennett will help rejuvenate the Gaels.
The Gaels stay at home and next face another Bay Area rival, USF, on Sunday afternoon. Tip off is at 3 p.m. Pacific. The game can be seen live on Comcast Sports Net California.