After a 1-1 road trip falling to USF and getting a dominating win over Santa Clara, the Saint Mary’s Gaels returned home Thursday night to McKeon Pavilion to do battle against the always-tough Portland Pilots.
Over the last six years the Gaels have a 41-3 record at home against West Coast Conference teams other than Gonzaga and the Gaels improved that mark with a solid 70-61 victory.
Within the first 11 seconds Thursday night Stephen Holt was fouled going for a layup. He went 1-for-2 at the line. In a slow start on both ends, the first three minutes of the game stayed stagnant with a 1-0 Gael lead. By 16:40 the only points scored were Gael free throws, with the lead 3-0.
The Gaels built a 12-4 lead early. Then came the Pilots. They closed the gap to 12-11 off a 7-0 run. This forced an SMC timeout. Off the timeout the Pilots hit a long 2-pointer building a 9-0 run.
By the media timeout at 7:44, the game was tied 18-18. In a back and forth battle the game remained tied 27-27 with 3:54 to play in the half. At the close of the half the Gaels managed to gain a slight edge up 34-30.
During the first half, the Gaels went 10-for-24 (41.7 percent) from the floor and were 8-for-20 (40 percent) from behind the arc. Stephen Holt had 12 first-half points.
The Pilots finished the half going 12-for-20 (60 percent) from the floor. They were 2-for-5 (40 percent) from 3. Thomas Van Der Mars had 10 points.
In the second half, the battle continued with neither team being able to get a break away lead. . The Gaels managed to maintain the lead 41-38 with 14:32 to play. The Gaels still had difficulty penetrating the zone defense. Luckily they were solid from the outside and behind the arc.
Finally, the Gaels tied their biggest lead of the night and went up by seven, 53-46 with 7:45 to go. The Pilots rallied back and cut the lead to 55-53 with 4:38 to play.
The Gaels had a late run and the Pilots could not rally in time.
The Gaels picked up a much needed but tough win. They simply must develop a better strategy against the zone. What saved them tonight was 3s when it really counted. They move to 11-6 in the West Coast Conference. Portland falls to 7-10.
The Gaels finished the night 20-for-45 (44.4 percent) from the floor. They ended 11-for-29 (37.9 percent) from 3. Stephen Holt led the way with a solid 26 points. Brad Waldow had 14. Kerry Carter had 12.
For the Pilots, they went 25-for-52 (48.1 percent) from the floor. They were 4-for-12 (33.3 percent) from 3-point land. Leading the way was Van Der Mars with 22 points. Both Bryce Pressley and David Carr had 10.
The Gaels face a huge game at home this Saturday night against Gonzaga. This marks the final regular-season game for the Gaels. The sold-out closer tips-off at 7 p.m. Pacific and can be seen live on ESPNU.