Saint Mary’s (19-8, 9-5) at San Francisco (16-10, 9-5)
Date: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Location: War Memorial Gymnasium, San Francisco, Calif.
Time: 8:00 PM PST
TV: Root Sports, CSCA
This Season: The Gaels cruised to a 88-73 victory in Moraga.
James Walker III
LIVESTREAM (Subject to Blackout) *Brought to you by thew.tv:
Got a chance to catch up with our resident Dons blogger before a huge game in the WCC: 19-8 (9-5) Saint Mary’s Gaels at 16-10 (9-5) San Francisco Dons.
ST: First thoughts on the game?
JS: This game will go as they have for the past 13 years, with a Gaels victory, or could potentially change the current “top three” era in the WCC. Most times when you say “third place is on the line” you mean it will just be for week or the next few games. However, this match up potentially can stick since there will only be three games until the end of the regular season.
ST: A friend of mine said it well when she told me after the loss to BYU that teams basically want to beat Saint Mary’s more than Saint Mary’s wants to beat them. And that makes a lot of sense, teams want to play their best against their best, and it’s a sign of respect when they want to beat you badly. That said, it is the responsibility of the players to not want to lose. I think in the case of USF-SMC, the Dons will get up for this game and will be fired up and want to put the embarrassing loss to Moraga behind them and will want to make a name for themself. Rex Walters has never beaten Randy Bennett and will want to do that too. On the flip side, they are getting a very motivated Saint Mary’s side that surely will bounce back. Writing and believing that they will bounce back is quite the contrary to actually bouncing back, so this will be a battle. What is a match up that you are looking for?
JS: I’m looking forward to Kruize Pinkins getting some time against Waldow. Last time these two met, Pinkins had one of his worse halves to start the game. Kruize is coming off a wonderful performance and will be looking to protect his Player of the Week honors. Additionally, I believe the Holmes / Holt match up will be interesting since Holt led the game with 21 points in Moraga. Since that game in January, the Dons have tried to emphasize an improvement on defense. They have been able to hold teams to under 70 points in the last four times out.
ST: Personally, I’m just looking for someone to do something positive on the offensive end when/if the Dons have a mini-run. The Gaels have the ability to get out to a lead, but have difficulty at times sustaining it. If the Gaels jump out to a lead, and the Dons respond, who (if anyone) will step up for SMC?
JS: The Gaels are 3-3 in the last 6 games. Has the inability to stop the big run been the main factor for the recent string of losses?
ST: Yes and no. It’s not just the inability to stop a big run, it is also the inability to regroup once that run has occurred. In two losses to BYU, the Gaels had double digit leads. In the away loss to San Diego, the Gaels started off slow and were never able to recover. In the OT win at Pepperdine, they blew a lead late. Loss to Santa Clara they had a nine point lead midway through the first half. Tied midway through the first half at Gonzaga. Led most of the game against George Mason. I think that it’s their inability to regroup in the middle of a poor stretch that has hurt them, rather than a lack of talent. Because of their talent, there is still the faith that, hey, come tournament time, this could still be a team that could win in Las Vegas and pull off an upset in March Madness. But at the same time, will they finally be able to prevent an extended run and regroup after such a run has occurred?
JS: With four games remaining and SMC and USF both looking on the outside of the NCAA tournament picture, does this game have direct NIT implications? Meaning, does the loser of this game have to worry about being on an NIT “bubble”?
ST: No. I think that two teams will make it to the NCAA Tournament and I think two teams make it to the NIT. Clearly, I think Las Vegas will be a huge impact. Not having top two teams automatically go to the semi-finals is huge because it wouldn’t shock me to see BYU, GU, or SMC get upended in the quarter finals. I think tournament seeding is crucial and I think that the winner of this game could potentially have an inside track to second place (and second seed in WCC Tourney) if GU can pull out a win in Provo.
JS: Agreed, all of the teams are so good this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some upsets in the quarter-finals of the WCC tournament.
ST: That will be one epic Saturday. Prediction time: who ya got?
JS: Dons 68-63. Holding the Gaels to under 70 points is key for USF to win.
ST: I think Gaels win it but it will be close. 74-68