MORAGA, Calif. — Toughness defined the Saint Mary’s women’s basketball team’s determination to close another game and extend its winning streak Saturday. The Gaels won their sixth straight with a huge run in the fourth quarter powered by Stella Beck’s career-high 28 points to beat San Diego, 77-65, in a West Coast Conference game at McKeon Pavilion.
Stella Beck scored half (14) of her new career mark during a 33-8 Saint Mary’s run that spanned the final minute of the third and most of the fourth quarter. Saturday was her first game back after missing the last two. Beck had been slated to start the game but was removed from the starting lineup just minutes before tip-off after getting hit in the mouth and requiring treatment during warm-ups.
That didn’t faze the junior from Wellington, New Zealand, who helped lead the charge in erasing a 12-point third quarter deficit and give the Gaels their eighth win in their last nine games. She scored nine straight points in the fourth quarter to break a 58-58 tie and give Saint Mary’s a 67-58 lead with 5 minutes, 24 minutes left. Beck also had a team-high eight rebounds, two assists and a steal.
“Stella Beck is an incredibly tough kid,” said Saint Mary’s head coach Paul Thomas. “Having her being out for the last couple games, and then in warm-ups gets hit, and then performing like that. I think the best thing that us as a coaching staff notice is she brought it on herself. She accepted that role and ran with it. She was just a leader today. I think that’s awesome. We need that.
Saint Mary’s had three players with double-digit points, the sixth time in its last eight games its had at least three. Jasmine Forcadilla scored 11 points with two 3-pointers, three assists and a steal. Mauldin added 10 points with four rebounds, three assists and a steal.
The Gaels went 1 for 5 with five turnovers in the first six minutes of the second half as the Toreros ran out to its biggest lead of the game, 51-39. Saint Mary’s began its comeback with two buckets in the third quarter’s final minute, including a third-chance layup by Carly Turner to beat the buzzer and cut the deficit to seven.
It was a 12-1 Saint Mary’s run to tie the game at 56-56 in the fourth quarter. Turner’s layup at the seven-minute mark made it a 14-1 run and gave Saint Mary’s its first lead since halftime. At its peak, the Gaels were on a 23-3 run to go from trailing 55-44 to leading 67-58.
“I definitely believe that our team did not feel, ‘Oh my God we’re down 12 or double digits and let’s pack it in,’” said Thomas. “I never at one point got that sense from the team. From the coaching side of it, we needed the right combination of people on the floor and I think we found that. You get a little bit of momentum and some things start going your way, and that’s what happened.”
Saint Mary’s outscored San Diego by 30 points (58-28) in the paint. It also outrebounded the Toreros, 38-29. SMC’s bench outscored USD’s reserves 49-10, thanks in large part to Beck’s 28. The Gaels had fewer turnovers than their opponent (14-10) for the ninth time in 2016-17.
Saint Mary’s next travels to the Pacific Northwest to begin a three-game road trip. The Gaels face Portland Thursday before taking on first-place Gonzaga on Saturday. The trip concludes in Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount on Feb. 16. All the games will be streamed live on the Gaels’ Gameday Central page.
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