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St. Mary's vs. San Diego, NCAA Scores: Gaels Looking For First WCC Title Since 1997

The St. Mary’s Gaels travel to San Diego to face the University of San Diego Toreros on ESPN2 at 8:00pm pacific tonight. A win over the last place Toreros would improve Saint Mary’s to 11-1 in conference and guarantee them at least a share of the 2010-2011 WCC regular season title. The Gaels are looking for their first WCC men’s basketball regular season title since 1997.

The Gaels are led by senior guard Mickey McConnell (16.8 PPG, 6.2 APG) who is a candidate WCC Player of the Year, and also for the Bob Cousy Award given to the nation’s top point guard. He has received strong contributions this season from junior Rob Jones (14.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG) and sophomore Matthew Dellavedova (12.8 PPG, 5.6 APG).

USD doesn’t have a single outstanding player, but rather has relied on contributions from across the board. They’ve struggled all season long as their leading scorer averages 10.3 points per game. The Toreros average 61 points per game while the Gaels average 81 points per game.

GAME NOTES: Two teams at opposite ends of the West Coast Conference standings hit the floor at Jenny Craig Pavilion tonight, as the San Diego Toreros entertain the streaking Saint Mary’s-CA Gaels.

At 10-1 in conference play, the Gaels are on the verge of capturing the WCC regular season title, although they still need to hold off a pesky Gonzaga group which is lurking at 7-3 along with a surprising San Francisco crew which is also tied for second in the standings. Speaking of the Dons, SMC defeated them over the weekend by a score of 86-68 on the road, marking the team’s fourth straight win and the fifth in six tries.

As for the Toreros, they’ve been struggling all season long with a total of just five wins, of which only three have come against Division I opponents. On Saturday, USD had a chance to pick up a rare conference win at Santa Clara, but in the end the Broncos picked up the 60-56 decision. The loss was the third in a row and the fifth in six games for the Toreros, who are now a mere 1-10 in conference and tied with Loyola Marymount for last place in the standings heading into this week.

With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, the Gaels own a slight 36-34 advantage over USD entering tonight’s matchup, with SMC winning five in a row over the Toreros. Last month in Moraga, the Gaels put up a 67-56 win on their home floor as Rob Jones erupted for 18 points and 13 rebounds, both game-highs for the Gaels.

Mickey McConnell scored 19 points and handed out eight assists as the Saint Mary’s Gaels easily defeated the San Francisco Dons by 18 points at War Memorial Gym on Saturday night. Also scoring in double figures for the Gaels was Rob Jones with 18 points, Matthew Dellavedova 14 and Mitchell Young 11 before fouling out as the team moved closer to capturing the league’s regular season title with only weeks remaining before the league tournament. While the Gaels were shooting 54.9 percent from the field and 40.0 percent beyond the arc, the defense for the squad was holding USF to a mere 2-of-15 effort out on the perimeter. McConnell, who has been named a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, has had four double-doubles this season in which he has handed out at least 10 assists and now he has a total of 162 dishes and a team-leading 16.8 ppg. But McConnell is not the only guard getting the spotlight for the Gaels because Dellavedova is also exposing defenses with his 12.8 ppg and 145 assists, making the backcourt duo one of the most dangerous and proficient in all of college basketball. While McConnell and Dellavedova direct the traffic from the outside, it is Jones who is doing the damage in the paint with 14.2 ppg and 7.8 rpg, which means there are very few aspects of the game in which the Gaels do not excel.

The Toreros were paced by Devin Ginty who tallied a game-high 23 points on 6- of-10 shooting from the floor and 8-of-9 at the free-throw line, while Chris Manresa came up a point shy of a double-double as he cleared a game-high 14 rebounds, but still San Diego bowed for the third time in as many games. The Toreros finished with almost as many turnovers (15) as they did made field goals (17). The defense for USD gave the visitors a chance by holding Santa Clara to 40.8 percent from the field and the Broncos themselves left the door open with 15-of-29 shooting at the free-throw line, but the Toreros were unable to capitalize. Conference games have been brutal experiences for the Toreros this season, the team averaging a woeful 56.8 ppg as they shoot just 40.2 percent from the field and 30.9 percent behind the three-point line. Matt Dorr is listed as the top scorer in conference with his 10.7 ppg, but he has missed two league outings and is again listed as questionable with an illness coming into this week so that means Norris (10.4 ppg) might be the lone double-digit scorer the Toreros have at their disposal.

With so much riding on this and the next few games for the Gaels, it would take an extraordinary effort by the Toreros just to keep up and make things interesting in the second half. Expect this game to be decided by the half as long as everything is running smoothly for SMC.

GAME NOTES: Two teams at opposite ends of the West Coast Conference standings hit the floor at Jenny Craig Pavilion tonight, as the San Diego Toreros entertain the streaking Saint Mary’s-CA Gaels.

FACTS & STATS: Site: Jenny Craig Pavilion (5,100) — San Diego, California. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: SMC 13-0, USD 4-7. Away Record: SMC 6-3, USD 0-12. Neutral Record: SMC 3-1, USD 1-2. Conference Record: SMC 10-1, USD 1-10. Series Record: Saint Mary’s-CA leads, 36-34.

Wednesday, February 16th, 11:00 p.m. (et).

Saint Mary’s-CA 84, San Diego 65