The Saint Mary’s Gaels faced the second of their long-time Bay Area rivals, the USF Dons, Saturday afternoon at home to yet another nearly sold out crowd at McKeon Pavilion. Saturday marked the much-needed return of Gaels head coach Randy Bennett after a five-game suspension. The suspension definitely took a toll on the Gaels as they went 3-2 without their coach. Saturday, the return of Bennett marked a solid victory as the Gaels stomped the Dons 88-73.
In the first half, the Gaels opened with a Beau Levesque lay-up with18:47 on the clock. Kerry Carter followed with a 3-pointer from downtown at 17:15 giving the Gaels an early 5-0 lead. With 16:15, the Dons got their first score off a 2-pointer from Kruize Pinkins. At the media time out at 15:39, the Gaels led 5-2.
In an almost identical start to Thursday night’s game, with 11:28 to play in the half the Gaels built the lead to 10 at 20-10, causing a USF timeout. The Gaels stayed strong Saturday and by the next media time out at 7:38 they maintained a nine-point lead, 27-18
To mark the end of the half, the Gaels got an offensive rebound with 16 seconds to play. Randy Bennett called a timeout to set up the last play. The timeout paid off as Kerry Carter nailed a 3. This sent the Dons to the locker room down 43-28.
In a much better played first half, the Gaels went 15-for-28 (53.6 percent) from the floor and were 5-for-13 (38.5 percent) from behind the arc. Brad Waldow had 10 first-half points.
The Dons struggled going 9-for-23 (39.1 percent) from the floor. They went just 2-for-9 (22.2 percent) from 3.
In the second half, the Dons paralleled the Santa Clara Broncos from Thursday, opening up with a 5-0 run. They continued their charge and chipped into the Gael lead. With 16:20 to play in the game, the Gael lead was cut to seven, 49-42.
However, history would not repeat itself. The Gaels fought back and continued to rebuild their lead. Off a James Walker III 3 with 12:20 to play, the Gaels were up solidly 65-47. The Gaels finished strong and got the much-needed and impressive victory Saturday.
For the night, the Gaels finished 24-for-43 (55.8 percent) from the floor and were outstanding at 11-for-21 (52.4. percent) from behind the arc. Stephen Holt led the way with 21. James Walker III ended with 17. Brad Waldow had 16. Kerry Carter had 14 and Both Levesque had 13 and fouled out with six minutes left to play.
The Dons finished 26-for-51 (51.0 percent) from the floor. They remained dismal from 3 and finished 5-for-18 (27.8 percent). Avry Holmes was their leading scorer with 17. Both Pinkins and Cole Dickerson finished with 16. Mark Tollefsen had 13.
The return of Randy Bennett definitely rejuvenated the Gaels. This shows the importance of head coaches. The Gaels picked up a much needed and confidence win this afternoon. They move to 3-2 in the West Coast Conference and the Dons dropped to 4-2.
The Gaels remain at home and next face Pacific next Saturday afternoon. Tip off is at 5 p.m. Pacific.