The Saint Mary's Gaels return to the court Thursday evening looking to get back on the winning track as they travel to face the Portland Pilots at 7:00pm PT on ESPNU. SMC has lost three of their last four games to drop to 23-5 and 12-2 in conference. They are fortunate that Gonzaga dropped a road game to the San Francisco Dons to remain a game back in the standings.
This marks the final week of regular season play in the WCC with the conference tournament scheduled to start Wednesday February 29. A win or a BYU loss at Gonzaga will secure a top two seed for Saint Mary's, which means two byes in the tournament. A win and a BYU win secures the top seed as with one game to go Saint Mary's would be two up on Gonzaga and a game up on BYU with the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Gaels defeated Portland 69-61 in their first meeting on January 14, in a contest that was not as close as the score would indicate. SMC was led by Stephen Holt who scored 21 points and added seven rebounds, five assists and five steals. Holt will not play in this game as he continues recovering from a knee injury likely to sideline him into the next week at least.
The Gaels are coming off back-to-back blowout losses to Murray State and Loyola Marymount. They beat Santa Clara at home prior to that but were beaten handily by Gonzaga the game before. Although a potential at-large bid remains relatively secure, another loss in the regular season would put them in a tough position.