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St. Mary's vs. Gonzaga: WCC Showdown As Gaels Look To Gain Separation

The St. Mary’s Gaels put their Top 25 ranking and undefeated WCC record on the line as they travel to Spokane to face the Gonzaga Bulldogs in their biggest conference test this year. The Gaels struggled in a non-conference loss at Vanderbilt but can right the ship and gain some separation from arguably their toughest conference foe in Gonzaga.

In spite of their loss to Vanderbilt, Saint Mary’s remains at the bottom of the Top 25 with a 17-3 record. At 5-0 in the West Coast Conference, the Gaels are currently a game up on the surprising University of San Francisco Dons. USF travels down to Loyola Marymount tonight looking to maintain pace with the Gaels. USF pulled off a rather surprising home overtime upset of the Bulldogs to solidify second place in the WCC. USF lost by 14 at St. Mary’s to open conference play and will host the Gaels on February 12, in what could be a battle for conference supremacy.

Tonight’s St. Mary’s-Gonzaga matchup will be televised live on ESPN2 at 8pm pacific with Dave Flemming and Sean Farnham calling the action.

GAME NOTES: The last of the undefeated teams in the West Coast Conference puts their unblemished record on the line tonight, as the Saint Mary’s-CA Gaels clash with perennial conference favorite Gonzaga at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane.

The Gaels have won all five of their WCC outings so far this season and had built a sizeable 11-game win streak stretching back to the early part of December, but then a trip to Vanderbilt changed all that last Saturday. Against the Commodores, the visitors had their hands full as they surrendered a season-high 89 points in a 19-point setback. With the decision, the Gaels were booted from the AP’s top-25.

As for the Bulldogs, they too had developed a strong and long-lasting win streak stretching for nine games, but then the team was thwarted by Santa Clara on the road, 85-71 before bowing to San Francisco in overtime last Saturday, 96-91.

With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, the Bulldogs have dominated the relationship with 19 wins in 23 opportunities. However, SMC did score a significant victory last season when it registered a win in the final game of the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas.

Vanderbilt turned the ball over a staggering 23 times last Saturday, yet even that was not enough to derail the Commodores in their pursuit of a win against Saint Mary’s in Nashville. Matthew Dellavedova, who registered four steals, accounted for a team-best 19 points and four assists for the squad, while Rob Jones chipped in with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the field. Stephen Holt added 11 points in 18 minutes off the bench in an effort to fill in a scoring deficit left by Mickey McConnell who tallied just six points, although the guard did hand out eight assists. Despite the rough outing against Vandy, the Gaels are still one of the top scoring teams in the nation with an average of 82.5 ppg, outscoring foes by close to 20 per game thanks to McConnell (14.6 ppg) and Jones (14.0 ppg) who have their own specific areas of expertise. While McConnell is handing out a team-high 129 assists and shooting 46.7 percent beyond the arc, Jones is collecting a team-high 7.3 rpg to pace the group in the paint.

Poor free-throw shooting doomed Gonzaga a few nights back when its struggled against San Francisco, the visitors making just 15-of-27 at the charity stripe at War Memorial Gym. Demetri Goodson and Steven Gray both accounted for 20 points and combined for 13 rebounds and seven assists, while Elias Harris chipped in 15 points and six boards and Robert Sacre 14 and nine, yet all that was still not enough to keep Gonzaga from losing its second game in as many tries. Through 20 games, Gray leads the Bulldogs in scoring with his 15.2 ppg, shooting almost as well from three-point range (.402) as he is the field overall (.438). Even better, Gray is also keeping his teammates involved with close to four and a half assists per outing as well. Sacre (13.9 ppg) handles action in the paint with close to seven rebounds per game, with Harris (12.3 ppg) inserting himself in the fray with 5.5 rpg as well.

Maybe now that the Gaels aren’t part of the national rankings they can move along without feeling like the huge target in the WCC. Taking on Gonzaga in Spokane is never easy, but SMC certainly has the players to get the job done.

GAME NOTES: The last of the undefeated teams in the West Coast Conference puts their unblemished record on the line tonight, as the Saint Mary’s-CA Gaels clash with perennial conference favorite Gonzaga at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane.

FACTS & STATS: Site: McCarthey Athletic Center (6,000) — Spokane, Washington. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: SMC 11-0, Gonzaga 10-1. Away Record: SMC 3-2, Gonzaga 1-2. Neutral Record: SMC 3-1, Gonzaga 2-2. Conference Record: SMC 5-0, Gonzaga 3-2. Series Record: Gonzaga leads, 19-4.

Thursday, January 27th, 11:00 p.m. (et).

Saint Mary’s-CA 83, Gonzaga 77