Utah State (24-3) at Saint Mary's (22-5)

Fair Currently: Moraga, CA
Temp: 44° F
  • Game info: 9:00 pm EST Sat Feb 19, 2011
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Utah State coach Stew Morrill has bad memories of his team’s last trip to Saint Mary’s two years ago.

He probably would also like to forget about last season’s meeting, as well.

In this budding rivalry, the 25th-ranked Aggies hope to avenge these last two defeats as they visit the Gaels in an ESPN BracketBuster game on Saturday night.

Utah State (24-3) and Saint Mary’s (22-5) are each atop their respective conferences, and are two of the top mid-majors in the country. The Gaels, of the West Coast Conference, were ranked earlier this year, but have fallen out of the Top 25 after losing three of their last eight games.

The Aggies, from the Western Athletic Conference, have only lost once in their last 20, but adding another victory to this run won’t be easy.

“We are obviously very familiar with (the Gaels) and the games we have had with them the last several years have been tough outings for us,” Morrill said. “The main thing for our guys is that they approach this game as an opportunity and are excited about getting to go compete.”

Morrill’s team should be plenty motivated considering the way the last two meetings have gone.

Saint Mary’s was the last team to beat Utah State on its home floor, winning 68-63 on Dec. 5, 2009, and ending the Aggies’ 37-game home winning streak.

The Gaels have won 19 consecutive home games, and are 42-3 in Moraga since the 2008-09 season. This includes a 75-64 win over Utah State in the 2009 BracketBuster, but a scheduling mishap and a long delay at an airport may have contributed to that outcome.

“The last trip we took to Saint Mary’s was a mess,” Morrill said. “We made the mistake of scheduling a flight before we really knew our game time, and I am not using this as an excuse by any means, but I really felt that we didn’t give our team as much of a chance to compete in the game as we should have. We didn’t get a chance to shoot around because the game was in the early afternoon and we looked out of it in that game and we played out of it.”

The Aggies, ninth in the nation in scoring defense at 58.4 points, will need to be prepared for the Gaels’ high-powered offense or they could quickly find themselves out of it again.

Saint Mary’s, 12th in scoring at 80.3 points, is led by senior guard Mickey McConnell, who is averaging 23.7 points in his last seven games, 6.8 better than his team-leading average.

McConnell had 21 points on 10 of 16 shooting and sophomore Mitchell Young scored 24 on 10 of 14 from the floor Wednesday against San Diego, but the rest of the team combined for 21 points on 8 of 30 shooting in a 74-66 loss. The Gaels led by 11 in the second half, but couldn’t keep up with the Toreros, who had 50 points on 66.7 percent shooting after halftime.

“We’ll be up for Utah State,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “We were up tonight, they just outplayed us. That happens sometimes.”

The Aggies had little trouble in their last game, routing NAIA school Montana Western 100-66 on Wednesday. Tai Wesley had 20 points and caused the game to be delayed by 50 minutes after shattering a backboard with a dunk at halftime.

Wesley, who averages a team-best 14.3 points, scored 12 against the Gaels last season, and had seven points and seven rebounds against them two years ago.

That meeting was the first between these programs since 1978. They’ll meet again next year at Utah State.

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