Loyola Marymount-Saint Mary’s (Cal) Preview
Saint Mary’s has two lengthy streaks on the line as it looks to clinch a double-bye in the West Coast Conference tournament.
The No. 21 Gaels own a 16-game home win streak and an 11-game run over WCC rival Loyola Marymount entering Wednesday night’s matchup.
Saint Mary’s (23-3, 12-1) leads the conference by 1 1/2 games over co-No. 24 Gonzaga. The Gaels will clinch a top-two finish and a bye into the conference tournament semifinals with a win Wednesday.
“We’re always just focused on the next game,” top scorer Matthew Dellavedova said. “We know that all the teams in this league are good so we need to be focused and prepared and give a good effort each time.”
Rob Jones will be one of three seniors honored in pregame ceremonies. Jones is second on Saint Mary’s with 15.0 points per game to go with his WCC-leading 10.6 rebounding average and conference-best 15 double-doubles.
The Gaels are holding senior day ceremonies Wednesday, although they have a matchup with Cal State Northridge scheduled March 9 after the WCC tournament.
Jones had 25 points and 12 boards in Saturday’s 82-67 home win over Santa Clara. He bounced back from an eight-point effort two nights earlier in a 73-59 defeat to Gonzaga that ended the Gaels’ 12-game win streak.
“So after last game, I prepared to prove to myself and everyone else that I’m still here with this team,” Jones said.
Jones has turned in huge games in his last two at home, totaling 53 points on 54.8 percent shooting to go with 20 rebounds.
“Rob’s good around the basket and he was really good tonight, getting the ball in the post and just off the post,” coach Randy Bennett said Saturday. “And that’s how he needs to play, when he shoots high percentages and draws fouls and gives us an inside presence.”
Jones is a transfer from WCC member San Diego so he’s the only Gael to lose to Loyola Marymount (16-10, 9-4) back on Feb. 12, 2009, with the Toreros. Saint Mary’s has not lost in the series since March 6, 2006, also winning seven straight meetings at home.
Four Gaels scored in double figures in a 71-64 win at Loyola Marymount on Jan. 26. Saint Mary’s held a 39-24 edge on the glass behind Jones’ 15 boards.
Loyola Marymount had its four-game win streak end with Saturday’s 78-59 road defeat to the Bulldogs. Top scorers Anthony Ireland and Drew Viney combined for 47 points but the rest of the Lions shot 18.5 percent.
“You aren’t going to beat Gonzaga with just two guys scoring,” coach Max Good said. “We couldn’t hit our shots early and we didn’t respond from there. It wasn’t that they played terrible, we just had players have shots they have made most of the season rim out. It just was one of those nights.”
Viney is averaging 20.0 points on 53.1 percent shooting in his last three outings. The senior forward has averaged 15.0 points and shot 53.3 percent in four career games against the Gaels, and this is his last chance to beat them barring a meeting in the WCC tournament.