Gaels Dominate in Season Opener Saint Mary’s men’s basketball team rode a hot-shooting second-half, blowing out Prairie View A&M
By Ryan Ford
Saint Mary’s first game of the season, and their first game at UCU Pavilion with fans in attendance since 2020, pitted them against a non-conference foe, Prairie View A&M. Saint Mary’s entered the game as favorites (-18.0), and after a back-and-forth first half, the Gaels caught fire from three-point range and ran Prairie View out of the building, with a final score of 87-68. For those who missed it, here are the main takeaways from a season-opening victory.
Alex Ducas Catches Fire
After over a minute of zero points for both teams, Gael Force and the rest of the 2,238 fans in attendance were waiting to unleash a roar of excitement over who would score the first points of the new campaign. A missed three-pointer bounced just the right way, allowing Alex Ducas to time his jump and slam it home, giving the crowd and his teammates the energy they needed to get UCU Pavilion shaking.
Ducas, a junior guard/forward from West Australia, averaged 7.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in an injury-shortened 2020-21 season, but led the Gaels in this one. He wound up with 22 points, a career-high 6 three-pointers, and 3 steals in the contest. Not only was Ducas the tone-setter for Saint Mary’s, but he made an early statement for being one of the top players on this year’s squad, leading both teams in scoring and hitting three-after-three in the second half. His ascension will be something to watch as the season goes on.
Gaels’ Well-Balanced Attack
While Ducas stole the show, he was part of a well-balanced team effort that saw four Gaels score in double-figures. Junior Kyle Bowen scored 12 points and finished one rebound shy of notching a double-double as a starter, while senior big man Dan Fotu and sophomore guard Jabe Mullins came off the bench to put up 14 and 10 points respectively. Head coach Randy Bennett has always been known for putting a well-coached and unselfish squad out on the hardwood, and he has to be happy with the numbers the team put up. Saint Mary’s finished with a +16 rebound differential, knocked down 41.9% of their shots from downtown, and totaled 23 assists on 29 made field goals.
Areas For Improvement
Saint Mary’s got the job done in their highly-anticipated home opener, due in large part to a scorching hot second-half in which they outscored Prairie View by 16 points, 46-30, leading by as much as 26 at one point. But Prairie View is a non-conference opponent that is unlikely to have enough success this season for this game to be counted as a quality-win. Meanwhile, the Gaels had their own struggles, despite the final score.
Saint Mary’s finished the game with 17 turnovers, 6 of which were unforced errors. They also allowed their opponent to shoot 49% from the field and 44.4% from three. That isn’t to say that the Gaels played poor defense all game, and as previously mentioned they did a great job moving the ball, but coach Bennett will certainly want to see these issues ironed out over the next few games.
While the Gaels ended the night with a 1-0 record, this game served as the first test of what will likely be a long and grueling season, as the team aims to rebound from last year’s poor finish. Conference-rival Gonzaga started the season ranked number 1 in both the AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll, per ESPN. It goes without saying that Saint Mary’s will have to be at the top of their game when conference games start less than two months from now, but all-in-all the season opener was a great sign for what’s to come.
Melanie Moyer '22,