After finishing their non-conference schedule in dominating fashion, the Gaels look to improve upon their conference record as they embark upon a long slate of WCC competition.
By Ryan Ford
Saint Mary’s men's basketball team currently sits at an impressive 13-4, but due to the collective hot-start of the WCC, they have only the fourth-best overall record in the conference.
Gonzaga’s early dominance is no surprise, following a championship run last season and the addition of star freshman Chet Holmgren. Saint Mary’s bitter rival is ranked number one in the country. But surprising starts from the Dons and the Cougars have some analysts thinking of the WCC as one of the better conferences in the NCAA this year.
ESPN’s College Basketball analyst Joe Lunardi currently believes that there are four tournament-worthy teams in the West Coast Conference, according to his most recent NCAA Bracketology update. The Gaels find themselves in the “On The Bubble” section of the site, meaning that they will need to continue to rack up wins if they expect to be dancing in March.
Saint Mary’s first conference matchup of the season took place on January 8th against Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. It’s always tough to start your conference slate on the road, and after a back-and-forth first half, the Gaels went home with a loss following a 52-43 final score. The Cougars did a great job of limiting bigman Matthias Tass’ touches in the paint, and their swarming defense forced the Gaels to shoot 29.3% from the field.
Randy Bennett’s squad righted the ship in their next game, however, in a 77-62 drubbing of Pepperdine on January 13th. Guard Logan Johnson paced both teams in points with 20, while Tass notched his second double-double in as many games with 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists. Perhaps most impressive is that this performance came on the road, their second consecutive road-conference game.
The Gaels went home to face Santa Clara on January 20th, winning 73-65, before a quick turnaround sent them to Loyola Marymount on the 22nd, a game that was televised on ESPNU.
Hopefully, Saint Mary’s offense will be able to stay hot and improve upon their 1-1 conference record, which has them tied with Santa Clara for 5th best in the conference. The Gaels are 13-0 when they score more than 60 points, compared to 0-4 when they are held below that threshold.