St. John's faces a test in the last days of December against the St. Mary's Gaels, tonight at 7:00 PM at Carnesecca Arena. A look at what they will face tonight, below.
St. Mary's, the consistent program
St. Mary's is one of the power teams on the West Coast.
The 23 wins posted by the Gaels last season was their lowest win total in the past 7 years. Coach Randy Bennett has spent twelve years molding this tiny Northern California Catholic school into a West Coast basketball power. He has a pipeline of Australian basketball talent coming in that includes NBA player Matthew Dellavedova amongst others.
Bennett has established a record of consistency over the last 8 seasons that rivals any program in the country. Overall he has a record of 263-125. His teams have made four of the last eight NCAA tournaments, and have routinely average 25 to 27 wins a season.
St. Mary's did suffer some recent NCAA rules violations and lost two scholarships per season through 2016. The sanctions were the result of a former assistant's actions. Although Bennett took "full responsibility", he thought the penalties were too harsh.
This year's SMC squad
This year's team is no different, though they are 1-2 in their last three games after starting out 5-0.
St. Mary's had a big win on the road at Creighton on December 13th sandwiched by two tough losses at home. On December 6th the Gaels suffered their first loss of the season to the solid Boise State Broncos, losing by 11; then beat Creighton in an overtime thriller. But then they dropped another game at home this past Tuesday to Northern Arizona.
St. Mary's starts four seniors and has a true center along with the three-guard lineup, featuring a number of transfers from Pac-12 schools. 6'9'' forward Brad Waldow is a tough inside player who demands double-teams and leads the Gaels at 21.6 points per game to go with 10.8 rebounds. He's just under 70% at the free throw line and the team as a whole shoots just over 70%.
Fellow seniors Kerry Carter and Aaron Bright help shoulder the scoring load. Carter is a 6'2'' guard who averages 14.4 points and 6.6 rebounds while Bright, a transfer from Stanford, averages 13.0 points. Last among the senior starters is 6'7'' forward Desmond Simmons, a transfer from the Washington Huskies, who shoots a lackluster 30% percent from the field but averages 23 minutes a game, 5th best on the team.
At point guard the Gaels have started 6'1'' freshman Emmett Naar, though Garrett Jackson - a Southern Cal transfer - got the two most recent starts. Jackson is a slashing wing with good height (6'6") but has not played heavy minutes.
Meanwhile, Emmett Naar has been shooting poorly at just over 30%, but he has been a solid floor general. Naar is one of the leaders in team minutes 36.9 per game and averaging a solid 6.3 assists per game to go along with 7 points.
6'9'' sophomore forward Dane Pineau has been putting up solid numbers off the bench. He averages 7.5 points and 3.9 rebounds but in the win on the road against Creighton last weekend, Dane scored 13 big points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 71-67 St. Mary's win.
SMC's schedule so far
St. Mary's wasn't tested early on in its schedule winning 4 of 5 by double digits with only UC Irvine giving them a game and losing by three.
In their first loss against Boise State, the Broncos Derrick Marks shot the lights out hitting 10-14 field goals, 2-3 from behind the arc had 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals 22 points and didn't turn the ball over. In that game Boise shot 58.8% from the field to the Gaels 39.7. St. Mary's actually took 12 more shots than Boise in that game.
After that loss the team rallied, went to Creighton, and got a huge win on the road, their first and only road game so far this season. Brad Waldow had a double double for the Gaels with 11 and 11, Aaron Bright scored 22, Kerry Carter 19 and Dane Pineau had his double double off the bench again with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
A tough home loss on Tuesday by two points to Northern Arizona just days before coming to NYC to play the #20 ranked Johnnies in Queens should leave a bitter taste in the Gaels mouth and fortunately for them they don't have to wait long to play another game.
Tune in on Friday night at 7PM to watch the St. John's Red Storm against the St. Mary's Gaels on FoxSports 1.