No. 21 Saint Mary’s and Washington State won their Wooden Legacy tournament openers in opposite fashion on Thanksgiving. Now the two West Coast teams will meet in this afternoon’s first semifinal in Fullerton, Calif., looking to keep their unbeaten records intact.
The Gaels dominated their first half against Harvard, taking a 46-20 advantage into the break, but the Crimson clawed back and climbed within eight points before Saint Mary’s was able to put the seal on a harder-than-it should‘ve-been 89-71 win. “We didn’t match their intensity (in the second half),” Gaels coach Randy Bennett told the media afterward. “They got us and denied things, it bothered us and from that, they got easy transition baskets. Then they got excited because they were back in the game. Fortunately, we can learn through a win.” In the tourney’s second quarterfinal Thursday, the Cougars fell behind by 20 in the opening half against St. Joseph‘s, narrowed the gap to 38-24 at the break and then outscored the Hawks 51-33 over the second 20 minutes – capped by Malachi Flynn’s go-ahead 3-pointer with five seconds remaining – to cap their third come-from-behind triumph in four games this season. “We have confidence in ourselves coming out in the second half and knowing we can dig ourselves out of a hole,” forward Robert Franks said. “This is going to make us that much better down the road.”
TV: 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPNews
ABOUT SAINT MARY‘S (5-0): Jock Landale, a 6-11 center, had a game-high 26 points on 7-of-9 shooting and a 12-of-13 performance at the free-throw line and is pacing the team with 19.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Landale’s showing helped offset an off day from frontline mate Calvin Hermanson, who entered the contest as the Gaels’ scoring leader with 19.0 points but finished with seven points on 3-of-8 shooting to finish in single digits for the first time in his last 13 games. Guard Emmett Naar is averaging 12.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and a team-best 9.4 assists for Saint Mary‘s, which is shooting 52.3 percent from the field on the season.
ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (4-0): Franks, a 6-7 forward, continues to shine as the Cougars’ most improved player, setting the pace Thursday with 19 points and seven rebounds in the 75-71 win and is now averaging 18.5 and 8.3, respectively, on the season. Those figures were 6.3 points and 3.3 boards last season as a sophomore reserve. Flynn (14.0), Carter Skaggs and Viont‘e Daniels (11.3 apiece) are also have double-figure averages for the Cougars, who are shooting nearly as well from 3-point range (42.0 percent) as from inside the arc (44.6 percent).
1. The winner of today’s game will face the Georgia-San Diego State/Sacramento State semifinal winner in Sunday’s championship game.
2. Washington State is now averaging 49 points in the second halves of games compared to 27.3 in the first half.
3. Saint Mary’s hit a season-best 30-of-32 free throws vs. Harvard and is now shooting 84.4 percent at the line this season.
PREDICTION: Saint Mary’s 79, Washington State 70