MORAGA, Calif. -- A great deal is at stake when the Saint Mary's men's basketball team travels to San Francisco this week.
Not only is SMC's 17-game win streak and local bragging rights on the line, the two teams are playing to remain in contention for a top-2 seed in next month's West Coast Conference Championships and an invitation to participate in postseason competition. SMC and the Dons are tied for third place in the league standings with identical 9-5 records, just one-half game behind BYU.
Saint Mary's will make the 25-mile trek across the San Francisco Bay Thursday for an 8 p.m. tipoff against the Dons in War Memorial Gym. The Game will be televised live locally on Comcast SportsNet California, as well as in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain regions on ROOT Sports. Outside of those areas, the game will be streamed live on TheW.tv. Live audio and links to live statistics will be available on SMCGaels.com.
The Gaels enter Thursday's game with a 19-8 overall record and will be looking to clinch a seventh-straight 20-win season and eighth under head coach Randy Bennett. In each of the 10 times since 1989 that SMC surpassed the 20-win mark, it was invited to participate in either the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.
SMC is coming off a rare 60-57 home loss to BYU last weekend. The Gaels are 14-2 within the friendly confines of McKeon Pavilion this season after losing just once in each of the last two years. One of the team's 14 home victories was an 88-73 win over San Francsco in early January.
Away from McKeon, Saint Mary's is 5-4 on the year with wins at Boise State, Pacific, Portland, Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.
SMC tied a program record by opening the season with nine consecutive victories, a streak that included wins over four teams currently with a top-100 RPI (realtimerpi.com). Overall, the Gaels have played eight games against top-100 teams and have won five of those.
As a team, the Gaels are scoring 73.6 points per game, while limiting opponents to just 65.5 for a +8.1 scoring differential. SMC is outrebounding opponents by +4.7 per game and is limiting long-range shooters to just .320 from outside the 3-point arc.
Individually, all five of the team’s regular starters average in double figures in scoring and the team’s top five scorers account for 82 percent of the team’s scoring. Junior Brad Waldow is seventh in the WCC with a team-leading 16.2 points per game and is fifth in the WCC with 7.6 rebounds. He is third in the league in field goal pct. at .579 and is one the only player to rank among the top-10 in the WCC in those three categories.
Senior Stephen Holt averages 14.3 points per game and is sixth in the WCC with 4.5 assists. He shoots a team-best .821 from the free throw line, is among the school’s career leaders in several categories and leads the league in minutes per game (37.8). Junior Kerry Carter is fourth in the WCC in made 3-point field goals (2.1). Senior Beau Levesque (10.2), Carter (10.1) and James Walker III (10.1) average in double figures.
Saint Mary's remains on the road this weekend when it travels to the South Bay to face another longtime rival in Santa Clara. Saturday's tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Leavey Center and the game will serve as the Broncos' final regular season home contest.
The Gaels will conclude their regular-season schedule next weekend when it hosts Pacific Northwest rivals Portland and Gonzaga. The 7 p.m. ESPN2 contest on March 1 against the Bulldogs will serve as the final regular season home game for SMC seniors Matthew Hodgson, Stephen Holt, Beau Levesque, Paul McCoy and James Walker III. The game is currently listed as a sellout, but tickets could become available late next week. Students wishing to attend the game will be able to pick up tickets next week and should check their email or Gael Force social media accounts for detailed information.