The Saint Mary’s Gaels continued to roll through their early non-conference schedule with a 72-69 win over UC Irvine at the McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, California. The Gaels improved to 4-0 with the win.
The game was a back-and-forth affair, with the lead changing eight times in the final 5:12 of the game. Overall, there was 14 ties and 20 lead changes. Two free throws from senior SMC center Brad Waldow with 20 seconds left put the Gaels up 70-69, and the Gaels were able to hold on to that lead and defeat the Anteaters by three total points.
Waldow was phenomenal for the second straight night, leading the team in points with 28 and pulling down seven rebounds. The 6-foot-10 center was matched up with UC Irvine’s mammoth post player Mamadou Ndiaye, who stands at 7-foot-6. Waldow got the best of him, with Ndiaye only scoring 14 points on the night.
Kerry Carter was the only other SMC player to finish in double figures, with 14 points. The senior guard also finished with seven rebounds. Freshman Emmett Naar led the Gaels in assists with five and senior Desmond Simmons led the team in rebounding with nine. Three separate Gaels – Simmons, Carter and Aaron Bright – led the team in steals with two each.
For UC Irvine, Luke Nelson led the squad in points and assists with 19 and six respectively. Ndiaye led the Anteaters on the glass with seven rebounds, while Travis Souza posted a game-high three steals.
Adding this win to its resume will help Saint Mary’s immensely in the long run, as UC Irvine is the favorite to win the Big West this year, per the conference’s preseason media poll. The Gaels have also knocked off New Mexico State, who was selected to win the Western Athletic Conference by coaches, and Denver, who was selected as Summit League’s runner-up.
The Gaels have yet to travel away from the friendly confines of McKeon Pavilion this season. Their first road game is scheduled for Dec 13, when the Gaels travel to Omaha, Nebraska to play Creighton.
The Gaels are back at it on Saturday with another home game against the Cal Poly Mustangs. Saint Mary’s will take on Boise State the following Saturday in a return game for the two schools home-and-home series.