Saint Mary’s Look to Avenger Loss Against Santa Clara

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St. Mary’s Gaels (23-6; 10-4) at Santa Clara Broncos (18-11; 5-9)
Thursday, February 27, 2019 @ 7PM. CBS Sports Network

After a brief (not so brief) hiatus, we are back with our Saint Mary’s game previews. The Gaels will head to Santa Clara to take on the Broncos in their second to last WCC game before the conference tournament begins. The Gaels will be looking to pick up an important road win. Why? Well, they are still vying for the 2-seed in the conference tournament. Also, they are at the least looking to avoid falling to the 4-seed. The Broncos, on the other hand, are looking to try and solidify their spot in the middle of the pack. They want to stave off continuing to slide down the standings.
In the last meeting between these teams, it was Santa Clara who came out with a huge road win over the Gaels. Tonight, the Gaels will look to return the favor.

Broncos Recent Struggles:

After starting the conference slate 4-4 with a win over Saint Mary’s, two of those losses came to Gonzaga. There  was some hope that this Bronco’s team could make a push to finish on the upper half of the standings. Unfortunately, that dream has dwindled away. The Broncos have struggled mightily in their last 5 games. They have lost 3 out of the 5 games by double digits. Also, they are giving up 70 or more points in 4 out of the 5 games. The defense for the Broncos has been particularly concerning as well. They have slid to 240th in the nation in points allowed per game (71.5) and have given up 85 in the past two contests. While the Broncos are showing that they can still put up points on the offensive end, they simply can’t outscore their opponents in a high scoring affair.

Gaels Surging:

The Gaels are trending in the opposite direction of the Broncos. They  have won 8 of their last 10 games. They have two losses being a 2 point loss to BYU in Provo, and a loss to Gonzaga we won’t get into. The Gaels are coming off their best offensive performance in conference play as well. They put up 92 points in a throttling of San Diego on Senior Night. Fitts has been incredibly efficient over this current 3 game winning streak. He is averaging 20.3 PPG on 54/53/100 shooting splits. Ford needs get back of playing close to the level of basketball he has been playing. If this happens, Saint Mary’s will be a tough out for anyone come March.

Keys to the Game:

This will be the toughest road challenge Saint Mary’s has had since they played BYU in Provo a little under a month ago. While the current struggles for the Broncos loom large, this is the same Santa Clara team that held relatively close to Gonzaga at home until the final handful of minutes of the game. By no means will this game be a cake walk for either side.

If the Gaels want to come out victorious they need to make sure they get out to a fast start, which means keeping the ball moving on the offensive end and avoiding the stand and look offense which leads to isolation offense. This was a big issue their first time out, as SMC shot only 36% from the field. While the Gaels are an above average defensive team, anyone is going to struggle to win games shooting that poorly from the field.

The other biggest factor for the Gaels will be limiting the scoring of big man Josip Vrankic and DJ Mitchell. Each combined for 38 points on 14-27 shooting the last matchup. Also it included the go ahead basket by Vrankcic. If the Gaels can’t stop the interior scoring of the Broncos, they may be in for a long night.

Prediction:
Saint Mary’s-78 Santa Clara- 67

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