San Diego Toreros (9-9, 2-4) at Saint Mary’s Gaels (13-3, 5-0)
When: Thursday, January 14th at 8:00 pm Pacific
Where: McKeon Pavilion, Saint Mary’s College (Moraga, Calif.)
Live Stats: Stats Broadcast
Television: Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
Meet the Teams
The Toreros have a trying season so far that hasn’t lived up to what they had hoped. A favorite to have a breakout season with a strong core of supporters backing up four returning starters including stars Johnny Dee and Chris Anderson who are in their senior seasons, the Toreros had a strong non-conference schedule playing tough against some really good teams including stealing a couple solid wins over teams like Western Michigan and UC Santa Barbara.
November 28, 2014; Fullerton, CA, USA; San Diego Toreros guard Johnny Dee (1) moves the ball up court against Princeton Tigers during the first half at Titan Gym. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The success did not carry over into conference play however as the Toreros have struggled mightily to close out games. They suffered an ugly loss to Portland to open WCC play when they blew a late lead, and they haven’t ever recovered. They have just two conference wins, both of which are unimpressive. They have an average win against last place Loyola Marymount, and held on for a win against San Francisco that the Toreros gave every chance for the Dons to win.
The bright spot for the Toreros is of course Dee. The former walk-on recently became the school’s all-time leading scorer, and he is currently 4th in the conference in scoring. Unfortunately, he’s also the only consistent scoring threat the Torero possess. Chris Anderson is a quality assists man who occasionally provides double-digit points, and Thomas Jacobs has been a breakout star who is a reliable source of points and rebounds replacing the one departed starter from last year, Dennis Kramer.
Beyond that trio, the Toreros struggle for output. Duda Sanadze has had an awful second campaign as he struggles with injuries after a breakout season last year. Jito Kok is a blocking machine and one of the best defensive players in the conference, but he is a liability on offense. All the other players including key transfer Brandon Perry and a core of highly regarded freshmen have done little in support.
The Gaels continue to quietly plug along playing in the shadow of highly ranked Gonzaga and the top offense in the nation of BYU. They are led by Brad Waldow, a monster of a center who is easily the best big man in the conference. He is currently averaging a double-double putting up WCC Player of the Year quality numbers. He is 2nd in the conference in scoring and 1st in rebounds.
He is backed up by Kerry Carter and Aaron Bright. Carter has been a revelation as the diminutive guard has been a consistent source of points and rebounds. He is also 3rd in the WCC in steals. With the departure of star Stephen Holt to graduation, he has been a huge part of replacing that lost production. Bright has been as good as advertised after coming over from Stanford. He has also been a consistent producer contributing points and assists. Along with Waldow, these two form one of the strongest cores in the conference.
The Gaels are supported by a number of quality role players who would start for many WCC teams. Desmond Simmons has come on strong lately as a source of rebounds and steals. And he has provided some breakout scoring performances. Emmett Naar is 4th in the conference in assists. With such a consistent and strong group, it’s no surprise the Gaels have cruised to a perfect 5-0 start to WCC play.
The Gaels are just way too much for the Toreros to handle. The lack of depth for San Diego compared to the quality of depth for Saint Mary’s is obvious. Waldow will have a dominant night and have no trouble against the bigs of San Diego. Dee will do everything he can to keep pace with the hot shooting of Carter and Bright, but it won’t be enough. Anderson and Jacobs will contribute, but they will be outshined as role players by Simmons and Naar.
Combine all that with playing in a tough road environment, and this could get ugly. The Toreros do flash some impressive resilience at times, and they could keep it close for a while as Saint Mary’s is becoming infamous for taking their foot off the gas and letting teams stay in games. But between their closing ability and the way San Diego fades late in games, the Gaels will slam the door at some point in the second half and cruise to a victory.
SAINT MARY’S – 68
SAN DIEGO – 54