MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Despite a gutsy 24-point effort by senior guard Stephen Holt, the Saint Mary's men's basketball team dropped a 63-55 decision today in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament at Williams Arena.
The loss ends the Gaels season with a 23-12 overall record, while Minnesota advances to a Tuesday evening quarterfinal game against Southern Mississippi. The Gophers improve to 22-13 overall.
Playing in his final game at Saint Mary's, Holt went 6-of-15 from the field and 9-of-11 from the free throw line to lead all scorers and was the only Saint Mary's player in double figures. Classmate James Walker III scored nine points. Guard Kerry Carter led the team in rebounds with eight before fouling out with 1:02 left in the game.
Despite a hot-shooting start to the game, the Gaels finished the game at just 38.1 percent from the field and registered eight steals. In SMC's two NIT games, its defense recorded 18 steals.
Minnesota took its first lead at 29-28 with 14:50 left on a follow-up layin by Maurice Walker. He drove to the basket and had his first attempt blocked by Hodgson, gathered his own rebound and scored for his sixth points of the game.
The Gaels jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, largely due to a swarming defense that forced eight Minnesota turnovers in the first 8:22 of the game. After Waldow opened the scoring with a layup just :30 seconds into the game, Jackson hit a 3-pointer and Holt connected on consecutive treys to put SMC up 11-0 and force a Gopher timeout just 3:58 into the contest.
A Walker free throw and Holt basket put the lead up to 14-0 before Minnesota scored its first basket on a Maurice Walker jump shot at the 13:10 mark. At that point, it was the Gaels' turn to go cold.
Saint Mary's was held without a field goal for nearly nine minutes as UofM went on a 15-2 run to climb to within two at 16-15 with 5:24 left in the half. Beau Levesque nailed a 3-pointer to end the drought, but a free throw and 3-pointer by UofM's Maverick Ahanmisi tied the game at 19-apiece with 3:41 left.
The Gaels outscored Minnesota 7-3 the rest of the way to take a 26-22 lead into the locker room at halftime. Holt led the way with 13 first half points to go with two steals as the Gaels forced eight first half turnovers.
NOTES: Junior transfer Garrett Jackson earned his first SMC career start at Minnesota. The Portland native has played in 24 games as a Gael after transferring from USC last year ...