Superb Gaels season marred by tournament showing

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Superb Gaels season marred by tournament showing

Maybe Norfolk State just vibed the NCAA Tournament off its natural axis for every favorite, but as the slight favorite Saint Marys Galloping Gaels reflect on their own one-and-done, the inscription on the dagger will read, Made No Shots Until It Was Too Late.

After the 15-seed Spartans set in motion a bizarre chain of upsets in the second afternoon game here at CenturyLink Center by beating Missouri, the Gaels faced Purdue, and were face-down before they knew what to do about it.

In losing, 72-69, the Gaels can speak in glowing terms of the frantic comeback they waged to close a game they persistently trailed by double-digits, but they wont.

RECAP: Saint Mary's falls to Purdue 72-69

Rather, they will remember their horrific shooting, their difficulties guarding Terone Johnson and then Lewis Jackson of the Boilermakers, and the crushing errors they made in the last minute that could have rendered the second-guessing moot.

If it didnt sting, it wouldnt be any fun, a fun-deficient head coach Randy Bennett said afterward. Theres not many things you can pour your heart into with a bunch of guys your age and invest so much time and care so much, and thats why it hurts, because when its over, its gone.

But it also hurts because in a game the Gaels were predominantly outplayed, they had a lead in the final minute and could easily have protected it, thus cheating an upset-engorged crowd from yet another. Indeed, as the Gaels were scratching desperately to get back into the game, 13-seed Ohio was beating Michigan and 15-seed Lehigh was smiting Duke, marking the first time ever that two 15s had advanced and only the fifth time ever that even one had done it.

Not that that will amuse the Gaels. They played too poorly to win, played just well enough to position themselves to win, and then failed in the crunch to lose anyway. This, in short, will be a profoundly unpleasant memory for them all.

The macro view takes you immediately to the Gaels 4-for-25 shooting from three-point range, including 2-for-10 from forward Rob Jones, 1-for-6 from Jorden Page and 1-for-5 from Matthew Dellavedova, and to Johnson and Jackson, who combined for 39 points on 15-of-27 to shape Purdues attack.

But the game that went so badly for Saint Marys for so long turned with 4:16 to go when Dellavedova, who had been guarded essentially out of the offensive flow, forced his way to the basket for a three-point-play that sparked a 14-2 run. That run was Saint Marys best work of the night by far, capped as it was by Pages open 22-footer with 44.2 to play to put the Gaels ahead, 69-68.

The problem was, it was their last gasp. After forcing a walk by Johnson, they returned the ball immediately when Clint Steindl ran on the end line during the inbound rather than remaining stationary. Jackson took the ensuing Boilermaker possession and drew a foul from Dellavedova with 22.8 to play, converting both shots.

The ref said it was on the spot, Steindl said, referring to official Scott Thornley, who did as he is supposed and told Steindl to keep his place when inbounding. All I was thinking was trying to get the ball inbounds.

Then, on the Gaels next possession, Page settled for a premature 25-footer that missed the rim by a fair bit, and Robbie Hummels two free throws after being fouled by Stephen Holt on the rebound put the Makers up by three.

And in keeping with the evening as a whole, Jones buzzer-beating trey hit the rim and fell away, ending a season that had been so good for them all.

I thought momentarily it had a chance, he said, but you cant really do anything about it now.

Jones performance (23 and 14, despite going 2-for-10 from three-point range) spoke to his eagerness to fill the offensive void left by Dellavedova, who forced some threes early, then went 15 minutes without taking any shots at all. He pressed early against a Purdue defense keen to monitor him above all others, then became a passer almost exclusively before his charge to the basket at 4:16 to prevent the game from remaining a drudgery.

They played good defense, a red-eyed Dellavedova said afterward, and I rushed a couple of shots. We had some good looks too that we didnt knock down, so thats the way it goes.

Not all the time, of course. There was Norfolk State, after all.

Leon Powe-doppelganger Kyle OQuinn, the Spartan senior center whose 26 points and 14 rebounds would have been noticeable under any conditions, put the final boot in with 34 seconds left by tipping in a Chris McEachin jumper and converting the ensuing free throw to propel Norfolk State into Tournament annals as only the fourth 15-seed in history to win a game. The other three were Santa Clara (1993, over Arizona), Coppin State (1997, over South Carolina) and Hampton (2001, over Iowa State).
RECAP: No. 15 seed Norfolk St. stuns No. 2 Missouri

And to cap off his best day ever, OQuinn laughed at the result he had helped engineer and said, We even messed up my bracket.

And then the Gaels went and messed up their own. A superb season took a dent in the final lap, and if there is time to be philosophical, it wont happen until they return to Moraga and reflect not on the 36 minutes they couldnt find Friday night, but on the 1,300-some-odd when they had the time of their collective lives.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Hermanson scores 17, No. 22 Saint Mary's beats BYU 70-57

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Hermanson scores 17, No. 22 Saint Mary's beats BYU 70-57

PROVO, Utah — Saint Mary's knows all about the raucous atmosphere at BYU. The Gaels hadn't won in Provo since 2013 and had only come out on top in three of their previous 12 trips.

Make it four out of 13.

Calvin Hermanson scored 17 points and No. 22 Saint Mary's cruised to a 70-57 victory over BYU on Saturday night, snapping a three-game road losing streak to its West Coast Conference rival.

"It's definitely one of the tougher places to play for us," Hermanson said. "Coming in here we know it's a huge crowd and we know they can get riled up on any 3-point shot or any run they make. We wanted to try to limit their runs and their big plays.

"The second half was pretty unbelievable how quiet the crowd was. It felt great for us."

With two games remaining on the regular-season schedule, the Gaels (24-3, 14-2) clinched a second-place finish in the conference standings behind top-ranked and undefeated Gonzaga.

Saint Mary's controlled the game most of the night, riding its staunch defense on one end and running efficient offense on the other. The Gaels were able to get to the rim consistently, but also knocked down 10 3-pointers.

BYU (19-10, 10-6) shot 39.7 percent from the field and connected on four 3s.

Evan Fitzner had 15 points for Saint Mary's, including 11 in the second half.

"We didn't turn the ball over and we shot the ball well," Gaels coach Randy Bennett said, "and were able to get some separation and then it made it tough on them. We kind of just wore them out after that.

"We're a little different team with Fitzner out there. He spaces the floor," Bennett added. "We just play a little different with Fitzner out there versus Jock (Landale). It's nice to have a Plan A and Plan B."

Saint Mary's took a 41-30 lead into halftime thanks to Hermanson's hot shooting and plenty of that trademark defense. The Gaels began the day ranked second in the nation in scoring defense, then held the Cougars to 37.9 percent shooting from the field in the first 20 minutes.

Saint Mary's shot 57.1 percent at the other end, including a 3-for-4 effort from Hermanson from behind the arc.

"I feel like we're better than we showed tonight," BYU guard TJ Haws said. "That team made a lot of runs on us. Tough defensive and offensive team. Very poised and disciplined.

"I want our team to just fight. When they punch us in the face, I want us to punch them right back."

BYU kept Landale under control in the half — and in foul trouble throughout — but Saint Mary's scored 22 of its 41 first-half points in the paint.

Eric Mika had 18 points for BYU, and Yoeli Childs added 13.

"The key to the game was that they were comfortable the entire time in our gym," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "That's on us. We need to be ahead. We need to get them to speed up a little bit because they're a little bit uncomfortable.

"But the game went pretty much exactly how they wanted it to go and we couldn't flip it. We couldn't get on top."

BIG PICTURE

Saint Mary's: The Gaels will be the No. 2 seed in the WCC tournament. No. 1 Gonzaga secured the regular-season title Saturday with a win over Pacific. An early December defeat to UT-Arlington is the Gaels' only bad loss this season, with the other two coming against Gonzaga.

BYU: The Cougars likely needed a win against the No. 22 team in the country to make an argument for the NCAA Tournament off their regular-season credentials. BYU has lost all three games against ranked opponents by double digits, including to Saint Mary's twice, and doesn't have a signature win. The Cougars get one last chance against Gonzaga next Saturday.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

No. 22 Saint Mary's might find itself moving up a bit after No. 17 Florida State and No. 21 South Carolina lost on Saturday.

UP NEXT

Saint Mary's: Travel to face Pepperdine on Thursday.

BYU: Play at Portland on Thursday.

Pickens, Travis rally Stanford past rival Cal for upset win

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Pickens, Travis rally Stanford past rival Cal for upset win

BOX SCORE

STANFORD -- Dorian Pickens scored 23 points, Reid Travis had 19 with nine rebounds and Stanford held on to beat California 73-68 on Friday night.

Marcus Allen added 11 points for the Cardinal, who overcame an early 12-point deficit to beat their cross-bay rivals for the 21st time in the last 24 meetings between the two teams at Maples Pavilion.

Stanford (13-13, 5-9 Pac-12) won for only the second time in seven games and split the season series with California.

Pickens had nine points, including a pair of 3-pointers, as part of a 20-5 run in the second half when the Cardinal pulled away.

After California closed within 62-56 on Grant Mullins' 3-pointer with 4:54 remaining, Allen made two free throws and Pickens scored on a jumper from the free-throw line as he was falling backward onto the court.

Jabari Bird scored 23 points and set a career-high with seven 3s for the Golden Bears (18-8, 9-5). Ivan Rabb added 16 points and 13 rebounds after being slowed by foul trouble in the first half.