In what some thought to be the best non-conference team to come to Moraga, the Gaels vs Bison matchup lived to its billing as the Mid-Major Game of the night. Despite Marshall Bjorklund going off for 23 points on 10/14 shooting for NDSU, the Gaels were able to pull away from the visitors late in the second half. With the Bison down 4 with two mins left, Matt Hodgson came up big with two free throws and a layup to ice the game and give Saint Mary’s a 78-65 win.
Although Bjorklund had a good game, senior guard Taylor Braun was contained well by the Gaels defense as he was limited to 14 points. The Gaels held the Bison to just one three pointer made on 13 attempts.
Couple things of note: Many fans would agree that this was an “off-night” for Saint Mary’s. Brad Waldow had a quiet 18 points and ten rebounds, while Stephen Holt had only seven points – four off them from the line. In the last two games, Holt has scored 16 of his 21 points from the free-throw line. He did however have 8 rebounds and six assists. Beau Levesque also had a nice game, making a few clutch shots here and there; he was one rebound short of a double-double.
A lot of credit goes to the bench. Kerry Carter had a really nice game, scoring nine points. Whenever the Gaels needed a big shot, Carter was there to come up with one. Matt Hodgson, despite fouling out, scored ten huge points and provided 2 big blocks in 15 minutes of play. If he can stay out of foul trouble (and a lot of times it finds him more than it should…), he will be a big asset. Down the stretch, Randy Bennett substituted Hodgson for Waldow so the tall Australian would provide better defense. Garrett Jackson also provided good minutes off the bench. Final bench tally is also very impressive: 43 minutes played, 26 points, 9/11 shooting, 3/4 3-pointers, 7 rebounds. This is especially impressive considering the Bison bench had 6 points, 2/7 shooting, 0/5 3-pointers, 2 rebounds in 46 minutes. The bench play covered up some of the short-comings of the starters, who, despite putting up good numbers, played below their potential. Once again, the fact that the Gaels beat a very good team despite not playing as good should make WCC teams worried.