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St. Mary's vs. Gonzaga, NCAA Preview: WCC Regular Season Title On The Line

The 2010-2011 WCC regular season title is officially up for grabs as the St. Mary’s Gaels host the Gonzaga Bulldogs at 8:00pm pacific on ESPN2. The Gaels are 10-2 while the Bulldogs are 9-3 and this game could help decide the number one seed for next week’s WCC tournament in Las Vegas. Both teams will have one game remaining after today but will be strong favorites in their conference finales.

Mickey McConnell will look to lead Saint Mary’s to a rare season sweep of Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are led by a team effort that gets double digit scoring contributions from Steven Gray (14.7), Robert Sacre (12.3), and Elias Harris (11.9). Sacre brings some serious size at 7’ tall and will test the Gaels front line.

GAME NOTES: The top two teams in the West Coast Conference will do battle in Moraga tonight, as the Saint Mary’s-CA Gaels entertain the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Saint Mary’s leads the league with a 10-2 record, one game better than the Bulldogs. Considering the fact that both teams have just two regular-season games remaining on the schedule after tonight’s tilt, a victory by the Gaels would assure them of no worse than a share of the WCC title.

Gonzaga comes in on a bit of a roll, as the team has won its last four games to move to 19-9 overall. On Saturday, the Bulldogs posted a 70-53 victory over San Francisco, and strong defense has clearly been a key to the record string of success.

As for Saint Mary’s, it has lost its last two games, a notable slump for a team that has enjoyed great success this season. In perhaps the most highly- anticipated BracketBuster game last weekend. the Gaels fell to Utah State by a 75-65 final. Still, they are a stellar 22-6 overall and carry a 13-1 home record into tonight’s affair.

These teams met back in late January, and Saint Mary’s squeaked out a 73-71 victory over the Bulldogs, overshadowing the fact that Gonzaga still owns a 19-5 advantage in the all-time series.

There are three double-digit scorers on the roster for Gonzaga, which is generating 76.1 ppg while allowing 66.1 ppg to opponents on 39.9 percent field goal efficiency. Steven Gray paces the Bulldogs with 14.7 ppg, and he is handing out 3.9 apg as well. Robert Sacre checks in with 12.3 ppg and 6.5 rpg, while Elias Harris provides 11.9 ppg on 51.5 percent shooting from the floor. Taking a look at the easy win over San Francisco last time out, Marquise Carter scored 18 points for the Bulldogs, while Gray led the way for Gonzaga with 19 points. Harris registered 14 points for the Zags, who finished with 16 assists against only seven turnovers and shot 53.8 percent from the floor in the decisive second half. Strong defense was an obvious key to the win, as Gonzaga forced 18 turnovers and held the Dons to 37.7 percent field goal efficiency.

Saint Mary’s can light up the scoreboard, as it is generating 79.8 ppg on 49.1 percent shooting from the floor. Defensively, the club is holding opponents to 65.4 ppg, and the Gaels are also outrebounding foes by over five caroms per contest. There are four double-digit scorers in the fold for the Gaels, and Mickey McConnell continues to lead the pack with 16.9 ppg on 52.2 percent shooting from the field, including 48 percent from three-point range. Far more than just a scorer, McConnell is handing out 6.1 apg, and he is a candidate for WCC Player of the Year honors. Rob Jones (13.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg), Matthew Dellavedova (12.6 ppg) and Mitchell Young (10.4 ppg) provide plenty of balance to the mix. In the 10-point loss to Utah State last time out, McConnell nailed 4-of-6 three-point attempts and finished with 16 points. Young added 11 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for the Gaels, who shot just 39 percent from the field and were outscored 25-10 from the foul line.

The Gaels are the best team in the WCC and will prove it tonight. Expect a big effort from McConnell, who should be the league’s Player of the Year.

GAME NOTES: The top two teams in the West Coast Conference will do battle in Moraga tonight, as the Saint Mary’s-CA Gaels entertain the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

FACTS & STATS: Site: McKeon Pavilion (3,500) — Moraga, California. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Gonzaga 13-2, Saint Mary’s 13-1. Away Record: Gonzaga 4-4, Saint Mary’s 6-4. Neutral Record: Gonzaga 2-3, Saint Mary’s 3-1. Conference Record: Gonzaga 9-3, Saint Mary’s 10-2. Series Record: Gonzaga leads, 19-5.

Thursday, February 24th, 11:00 p.m. (et)

Saint Mary’s-CA 83, Gonzaga 75