No. 15 St. Mary’s will look to remain in sole possession of first place in the West Coast Conference by continuing its dominance over host Portland on Saturday.
The Gaels (21-5, 10-1 WCC ) are seeking to knock off the Pilots (13-14, 5-7) for the 12th straight time and for the 21st time in their past 22 meetings dating to February 2011.
St. Mary’s, which is a game ahead of Gonzaga after beating Bulldogs 78-70 in overtime on Feb. 4, had its 12-game winning streak snapped with a 78-74 overtime loss at Loyola Marymount on Thursday.
Portland, which was blown out by the host Gaels 85-43 on Jan. 7, has won two of its past three games after an 81-73 win over visiting Pacific on Thursday.
Against Loyola Marymount, St. Mary’s opened with a 16-0 run and led 60-53 with three minutes left before the Lions rallied.
The Lions ended the game on a 10-3 run in which Cam Shelton scored seven points in the final 1:58, including five in the final 20 seconds. His layup with two seconds remaining sent the game into overtime tied 63-63.
The Gaels took a 71-69 lead on Logan Johnson’s layup with 1:58 left in the extra session before the Lions scored the next five points to take a 74-41 edge they wouldn’t relinquish with 52 seconds to go.
“In this business, when you have a chance to win one on the road like that against a good team, you need to close those out,” said Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett, whose team watched Loyola Marymount shoot 5 of 5 from the field in OT. “Defensively, we cost ourselves the game.”
Johnson, who averages 12.9 points per game, scored a career-high 31 points against Loyola Marymount, while Aidan Mahaney added 24 points — well above his team-leading scoring average of 15.3 points per game.
The Gaels’ starters were their only players to score against the Lions. Alex Ducas chipped in 10 with Mitchell Saxen and Kyle Bowen finishing with six and three points, respectively.
Portland, however, had no trouble finishing strong against Pacific.
The Pilots trailed by as many as 11 in the first half before closing to within 33-32 at halftime. Portland trailed 46-41 with 15:22 to play before going on a 9-0 run to take a 50-46 advantage less than three minutes later and didn’t trail again.
Moses Wood, who averages a team-high 15.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, had a game-high 26 points to go along with eight rebounds. Juan Sebastian Gorosito chipped in a career-best 19 points and Tyler Robertson finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.
“We need to go 1-0 on Saturday — that’s the plan,” Portland coach Shantay Legans said. “Our team has turned the corner and is playing good basketball and doing what we need to do to win.”
In the last meeting between Saint Mary’s and Portland, the Gaels jumped out to a 14-2 lead before taking a 41-14 halftime advantage. Saint Mary’s led by 45 points late in the game’s final minute.
Saxen and Mahaney each scored 15 points to lead five Gaels in double figures, while the Pilots’ Alden Applewhite scored a team-high 13.
“We didn’t give them our ‘A’ game the last time we played them,” Legans said. “But we will this time.”
–Field Level Media