The Saint Mary’s Gaels entered the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament as a No. 4 seed and took on the fifth-seeded Utah Utes at McKeon Pavilion. Utah has not seen postseason play in five years. They finished their season 21-11. The Gaels finished 22-11.
Tuesday night’s game would bring the Gaels back to life and restore their confidence as a late second half rally stunned the Utes with the Gaels sailing to victory 70-58.
In the first minute and a half the Gaels fell down 6-0, going 0-for-4 from the floor with a turnover.
Before the Gaels knew what hit them, they were down 11-0. With 16:36 left, Beau Levesque finally entered the game.
The Gael offensive ice was broken by Stephen Holt, who hit a 3 at 16:09 bringing some life to the Gaels. This was the start of a 7-0 run and the Gaels were back in the game, down 11-7 with 14:17 to play in the half.
By the media timeout at 7:54, the Gaels fought hard to stay alive but still trailed 23-17. They were shooting dismally at just 27.8 percent compared to Utah who was at 64.3 percent. The Gaels quickly fell back down 29-17 late in the first half.
In a half that that the Gaels should feel lucky they weren’t down by 20 plus points off of disastrous shooting, they went to the locker room trailing 30-23.
In the second half, Matt Hodgson stepped up his game and gave the Gaels a new life. With 7:48 to play in the game, off a Utah timeout, the Gaels were back in the game down 44-39 after struggling up to that point. Hodgson said, “in all his time at Saint Mary’s, this is what he feels was his biggest win”.
With 6:11 to play the Gaels cut further into the Utes lead trailing just 46-44.
At 4:19 the game was tied 50-50.
Then, with 3:52 to play the Gaels took the lead for the first time. The late rally was too much for Utah as the Gaels dominated the last few minutes of the game and pulled out a tremendous win.
Bottom line is Matt Hodgson must see continued increased playing time. The Gaels have the ability to play both Hodgson and Brad Waldow at the same time and they should. Both players have the size and ability to be a strong force for the Gaels as the postseason continues. Hodgson had eight strong points tonight and Brad Waldow had four. James Walker III had 21 solid points tonight. Stephen Holt finished with 15. Kerry Carter had 10. Beau Levesque came alive when it counted and hit seven crucial points on the night.
The Gaels finished the night 23-for-52 (44.2 percent) from the floor. They were 65.2 percent in the second half. They ended 6-for-17 (35.3 percent) from 3.
For the Utes, they went 18-for-41 (43.9 percent) from the floor. They were 6-for-12 (50.0 percent) from 3-point land. Jordan Loverridge led the way with 16.
The Gaels advance to the second round of the tournament, where they will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers, seeded No. 1 in their quadrant of the bracket. Minnesota beat High Point Tuesday night 88-81. The game will be played in Minneapolis on Sunday, with the time yet to be determined.