San Diego-Saint Mary’s (Cal) Preview
After staying unbeaten in West Coast Conference play during a stretch of three straight road games, Saint Mary’s looks to keep its perfect home record intact.
The 18th-ranked Gaels seek their longest winning streak in more than three years as they host San Diego on Thursday night.
Saint Mary’s has won 11 in a row since a 72-59 loss to then-No. 6 Baylor on Dec. 22. The Gaels (21-2, 10-0) are coming off an 80-66 win at BYU on Saturday following road victories over Loyola Marymount and Santa Clara.
“We keep improving and that’s the whole deal,” coach Randy Bennett said. “You’ve got to improve from January to February and February to March. We’ve been on a pretty good run as far as getting better. That’s what we’ve got to focus on.”
The Gaels have had at least four players score in double figures in each of the last three games. Leading scorer Matthew Dellavedova was held to one field goal Saturday but had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Freshman Brad Waldow, averaging 8.1 points, had a season-high 19 points and has averaged 14.3 points with 9.3 rebounds in the last three games.
“I’m starting to feel more and more comfortable in the post as each games goes on,” he said. “I’m hoping to have even better games as we go on.”
Saint Mary’s, which also had an 11-game win streak last season, is looking to win 12 in a row for the first time since a 15-game run Nov. 28, 2008-Jan. 22, 2009. After Thursday, the Gaels don’t play again until visiting second-place Gonzaga next Thursday.
Though Saint Mary’s has rarely been challenged in going 14-0 at home, it might be careful not to overlook San Diego (8-13, 3-6).
The Gaels held on for a 78-72 road win over the Toreros on Jan. 5, one of only four victories that hasn’t been by double digits. Saint Mary’s trailed midway through the second half but pulled out the win behind Rob Jones’ career-high 31 points and 12 rebounds.
Jones, the WCC leader with 10.8 boards per game, spent two seasons with San Diego before transferring. He had 18 points and 13 rebounds in a 67-56 win last season when the Toreros visited Saint Mary’s.
After losing six straight, San Diego has alternated wins and losses over the last six games. The Toreros are coming off an 84-70 loss at San Francisco on Saturday, dropping to 2-5 on the road.
Ken Rancifer scored a season-high 17 points for San Diego, which led by four at the half but allowed the Dons to shoot 65.2 percent after the break.
Freshman Johnny Dee, who leads the Toreros with 14.5 points per game, has scored in double figures in eight straight. He scored 22 in the loss to Saint Mary’s and had 13 on Saturday.
The Toreros have dropped five straight against Top 25 teams. They’ve lost four in a row on the road against the Gaels.