No. 22 Saint Mary’s is in position for an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, but the 24-3 (14-2 WCC) Gaels can’t afford any slip-ups if they want to get a good seed.
So Saturday night in Provo the Gaels put on a show and easily handled the BYU Cougars (19-10, 10-6 WCC) in what will likely be the final shot at an upset of the WCC’s top teams this season.
Saint Mary's and BYU tipping off shortly on ESPN2. Last good chance for one of the bottom 8 WCC teams to beat one of the top 2. pic.twitter.com/GgNYdOa1so— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) February 19, 2017
We were supposed to be treated to a battle of great big men. Both Saint Mary’s Jock Landale (7 points) and BYU’s Eric Mika (18 points) were named to the 10-man Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award watch list. Mika led the game in scoring, but Landale was hampered with foul trouble throughout and failed to make much of an impact.
Three point marksman Calvin Hermanson (17 points) led the Gaels. Evan Fitzner added 15 points and Emmett Naar dished out eight assists to go along with eight points.
Gaels’ defense shows well against speedy Cougars
Saint Mary’s held the Cougars to a season low 57 points. And, while faster than they would’ve liked, managed to slow down the high-octane Cougars. BYU ranks fourth in adjusted tempo according to KenPom, averaging 76.3 possessions per 40 minutes.
Saturday they managed just 66, at home.
The Gaels’ defense is predicated on controlling tempo — Saint Mary’s ranks dead last in adjusted tempo (59.4) — but they’re no slouches statistically. They held the high-scoring Cougars to below 40% from the field and below 30% from three point range.
Young BYU’s bench troubles continue
It was senior night, and the Cougars honored Kyle Davis and LJ Rose. Both seniors are out with injuries. Davis’ is career-ending, and Rose’s likely will be as well considering the trajectory of the Cougars’ season.
Those injuries forced Yoeli Childs (13 points), for Davis, and Elijah Bryant (8 points), for Rose, into the starting line-up. Behind those two, the Cougars have proven to have very little talent on the depth chart.
Saturday against Saint Mary’s the BYU bench accounted for three points, the same number it had accumulated over the previous two games combined.
What’s up next for these two?
BYU faces Portland and No. 1 Gonzaga on the road next week before heading to Vegas for the WCC Tournament. The Cougars are sputtering towards the NIT, and will likely pick up two more losses before they get there.
Saint Mary’s has an easier road, traveling to Pepperdine before hosting Santa Clara next Saturday in the regular season finale.