Team Profile: Saint Mary’s – Utah State Recap
Saint Mary’s 75, No. 23 Utah State 64
Okay, Patrick Mills has not been forgotten around McKeon Pavilion – not even close. But, after seven games, the Gaels are doing their best to show the Committee they are one of the 34 teams that deserve an at-large bid.
“(Utah State) was going to have to play really well to beat us today,” Gaels coach Randy Bennett said in the post-game interviews. “Our desire to win that game was at a high level. I thought we played really well, probably the best we’ve played since we lost (Mills).”
Sophomore Mickey McConnell was put into the nearly impossible situation of taking star Mills’ spot in the starting lineup, but he was a key factor in proving that the Gaels (22-5) can beat quality opponents without the conference’s best player.
McConnell went 6-for-6 from the field and hit 9 of 11 free throws to finish with a team-high 22 points.
“It was definitely a huge game. They’re a great team and we need all the wins we can get,” McConnell told the Contra Costa Times. “It was good to get a win against a high-quality team.”
For most of the game, 6’11, 260-pound Omar Samhan did a terrific job preventing Utah State big man Gary Wilkinson from catching the ball on the block. Samhan outrebounded Wilkinson 12-2 for his 11th double-double this season.
Utah State (25-3) has now lost two in a row on the road and will have time preventing an extension of that streak as they travel to Reno to play a resurgent Nevada team.
Aggies head coach Stew Morrill can complain all he wants about his inability to get home-and-home contracts with the power conference foes but his scheduling strategy has left his team with a non-conference strength of schedule of 190, despite an RPI of 27. The quality win against Utah helps USU’s resume, but there’s just not enough meat across the rest of the Aggies’ schedule.
The Aggies; record is impressive but if the committee is true to its recent form, Utah State needs to win the WAC Tournament to play in the NCAA’s this year.
St. Mary’s is the Bracketbuster team whose stock improved the most over the weekend, and SMC is now walking a tightrope to be included in the field of 65. Although the Committee does not root for any particular teams, their lives would be made much easier if Saint Mary’s were to beat Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament final.
After defeating a nationally-ranked team without Mills, does any power conference team want to see this team with Patrick Mills back at even 90-percent? That answer is easy – no.