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St. Mary's vs. Santa Clara, Preview: Gaels Look To Drop Broncos Out Of WCC Regular Season Race

The St. Mary’s Gaels continue on the back half of their WCC regular season schedule as they make the short road trip to the South Bay to face the Santa Clara Broncos. While Saint Mary’s is leading the WCC with an 8-1 record, the Broncos are still hanging around the top half of the WCC standings at 5-3. Santa Clara is tied with Gonzaga for third place and a game back of the San Francisco Dons. A loss to St. Mary’s would realistically end Santa Clara’s chances at the regular season title.

The Broncos are led by sophomore guard Kevin Foster who is averaging 19.0 points per game and a team-leading 3.9 assists per game. They’re led on the inside by Marc Trasolini, Ben Dowdell and Troy Payne, who are each averaging 4.5 rebounds or more per game. They’ll face off inside with Gaels junior forward Rob Jones.

GAME NOTES: With their eyes on the West Coast Conference crown, the Saint Mary’s Gaels begin a tough, three-game road stretch tonight with a visit to the Leavey Center and league foe Santa Clara

Saint Mary’s enters tonight’s game as the top team in the WCC with a 20-4 overall record and an 8-1 mark in league play. The Gaels have won 14 of their last 16 games and, following tonight, they will remain on the road for dates with San Francisco and San Diego. There are a total of six games remaining on the Gaels’ schedule, with five of those game coming against WCC foes.

Santa Clara comes into tonight’s matchup tied for third place with Gonzaga in the league standings at 5-3. The Broncos have compiled a 15-10 overall mark and have won five of their last six contests, dating back to a 84-59 loss to Saint Mary’s on Jan. 15th. They have won 10 of 14 games at home on the year.

With regards to the all-time series, tonight’s matchup marks the 209th meeting between Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara. The Broncos currently hold a 131-77 lead over the Gaels.

Senior point guard Mickey McConnell has been a revelation for Saint Mary’s. Not a point guard in the traditional sense, McConnell can score the ball in a variety of ways and has a pure shooter’s touch. He currently ranks third in the WCC in scoring (16.3 ppg), while also leading the WCC is assists (6.3 apg) and assists to turnover ratio (2.87). Proof of his deadly shooting stroke is evident in his 51.4 field goal percentage (No. 6 WCC), 48.1 three-point percentage (No. 2 WCC) and 89.3 free throw percentage (No. 2 WCC). McConnell receives help and a go-to inside presence in junior Rob Jones, who averages 14.3 ppg and is second in the league in rebounding (7.6 rpg). Jones has compiled six double-doubles on the year and has led the Gaels in rebounding in each of the last eight contests. These two stalwarts, along with the playmaking Matthew Dellavedova, guide Saint Mary’s to the league-lead in scoring offense (81.3 ppg), scoring defense (64.8 ppg), scoring margin, field goal percentage, assists, turnover margin, assist to turnover ratio, defensive rebounds and three-pointers made. The Gaels downed Loyola Marymount, 79-70, on Saturday to earn their 20th win of the season. It marked the seventh time in school history that the team reached 20 wins, with the Gaels advancing to the postseason in each of those seven seasons.

Not to be outdone, Santa Clara’s sophomore guard Kevin Foster is making his own claim as the league’s most prolific scorer. Foster currently leads the WCC in scoring (19 ppg) and three-pointers per game (3.3). He registered a career- high 36 point game against Gonzaga earlier this year and is among the top-10 in the WCC is assists, steals, assist to turnover ratio and free throw percentage. The Broncos are balanced, as junior Marc Trasolini adds muscle inside, leading the team in rebounding (5.9 rpg), while ranking second in scoring (12.3 ppg). He also ranks second in the WCC in field goal percentage (57.1). Behind Foster and Trasolini, the Broncos rank third in the WCC in scoring (73.7 ppg). Defensively, Santa Clara holds opponents to 67.4 ppg and records 7.4 steals per game. The Broncos fell 68-62 to San Francisco on Saturday, halting a four-game win streak in the process. In atypical fashion, Santa Clara managed just 33 second half points on 38.2 percent shooting to suffer the loss. Evan Roquemore led the team in defeat with 16 points, while Foster added 14 points.

Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara have similar compositions, with both possessing an elite scorer and solid complementary pieces. Overall though. the Gaels utilize their makeup to produce more results on the offensive end, which should spell victory tonight.

GAME NOTES: With their eyes on the West Coast Conference crown, the Saint Mary’s Gaels begin a tough, three-game road stretch tonight with a visit to the Leavey Center and league foe Santa Clara

FACTS & STATS: Site: Leavey Center (4,700) — Santa Clara, California. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Saint Mary’s 13-0, Santa Clara 10-4. Away Record: Saint Mary’s 4-3, Santa Clara 5-4. Neutral Record: Saint Mary’s 3-1, Santa Clara 0-2. Conference Record: Saint Mary’s 8-1, Santa Clara 5-3. Series Record: Santa Clara leads, 131-77.

Thursday, February 10th, 11:00 p.m. (et).

Saint Mary’s 79, Santa Clara 71