The St. Mary’s Gaels took one on the chin today in ESPN’s Bracketbuster Saturday as they lost to the Utah State Aggies 75-65. The late season non-conference matchup was meant to boost the 2011 NCAA Tournament resume of one of the teams, while pushing the other team further to the wrong side of the Bubble Watch. Utah State ended up the beneficiary of this game as they claimed their first win over a Top 100 RPI opponent this season.
The Aggies were able to march to victory thanks to 22-point efforts from Tai Wesley and Brockeith Pane. Utah State trailed Saint Mary’s 36-27 at halftime but they opened the second half with a 25-7 run to take back the lead. The Aggies led by nine at that point and never saw their lead drop below six.
The Gaels got a double-double from Mitchell Young and 16 points from Mickey McConnell, but it was not enough. The Aggies big run came as McConnell was held scoreless for the first 15 minutes of the second half. McConnell grabbed eight points in the final five minutes of the second half, but six of them came in the final 1:02 of the game with the Gaels down double digits. It was his weakest performance since a 6-point effort in St. Mary’s last non-conference matchup against Vanderbilt.
The Gaels now find themselves in a tough position with only two regular season games remaining. St. Mary’s is likely going to win the WCC regular season title and will be favored in the conference tournament. However, if they were to get tripped up in the WCC tournament, their resume leaves them on the bubble. The St. John’s win grows in prestige by the day, but it’s tough to say whether that will be enough. A sweep of Gonzaga would help, and getting to the WCC tournament finals has to happen. If they lose in the finals, one has to wonder where that will leave them come mid-March.