Utah (21-11) at Saint Mary's-CA (22-11)|
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 18, 11 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McKeon Pavilion (3,500) -- Moraga, California.
Television: ESPN2. NCAA Record: Utah 11-10, Saint Mary's 2-2. Series Record:
Utah leads, 14-2.
GAME NOTES: The final Tuesday-night tip in the National Invitation Tournament
will be between the fourth-seeded Saint Mary's Gaels and the fifth-seeded Utah
Utes in first-round action at McKeon Pavilion.
Awaiting the winner in the second round of the event will be either Minnesota
or High Point.
Utah has been impressive this season at 21-11, but its stay in last week's
Pac-12 Conference Tournament came to an unceremonious end when it was blown
out by top-seeded Arizona in the quarterfinals, 71-39. The Utes are no
strangers to the NIT, with their 12 appearances tied with Arizona State for
most by any Pac-12 program. They were able to hoist the tournament trophy in
Saint Mary's (22-11) season was defined by its inability to defeat West Coast
Conference champion Gonzaga, and after a 70-54 loss to the Bulldogs in the
semifinals of the conference tournament, it finished up 0-3 against the Zags,
with the losses coming by a combined 66 points. The Gaels last appeared in the
NIT in 2011, but lost on their home floor in the first round to a lower-seeded
Kent State, 71-70.
Utah has a 14-2 lead over Saint Mary's in the all-time series, which includes
a 41-35 victory in the only matchup in Moraga during the 2001-02 season.
The Utes were embarrassed by Arizona their last time out in their worst
performance of the season, as they were outshoot from the field by a lopsided
margin, 52.9 percent to 25.5 percent, in the 32-point blowout. No one scored
in double figures in the setback, with Dallin Bachynski coming the closest
with nine points.
Clearly that performance was more the exception rather than the rule for Utah
this season, as it shoots a lofty 48.9 percent from the field (t-12th in the
nation) for 75.7 ppg while also playing excellent defense (.410, 64.1 ppg).
Delon Wright (15.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Jordan Loveridge (14.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg) make
up a strong duo in the frontcourt, with Wright putting up impressive
percentages from the field (.568) and the line (.788), while adding to his
all-around game with 5.2 apg, 2.5 spg and 1.3 bpg on his way to a All-Pac-12
First Team selection. Brandon Taylor is also relied upon for regular
contributions with 10.5 ppg and 3.6 apg.
In the WCC Tournament semifinals against Gonzaga, Saint Mary's fell behind
their rival by 11 at the break and never threatened the lead down the stretch
as it saw its NCAA Tournament hopes dashed. They shot only 37.3 percent from
the field on the evening (including 2-of-8 from 3-point range) and were
lackluster from the foul line as well (14-of-25). Brad Waldow was one of the
few bright spots with 14 points on 5-of-7 from the field, while Stephen Holt
and Kerry Carter pitched in 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Although the Gaels don't have much of a disparity between their field-goal
percentage (.452) and that of their opponents (.449), they still own a +6.2
scoring margin by shooting 38.3 percent from 3-point range and 70.8 percent at
the free-throw line while boasting a +4.4 rebounding margin. Waldow is the
catalyst in the frontcourt with 15.8 ppg and 7.6 rpg, while Holt leads the
charge on the perimeter with 14.9 ppg and 4.0 apg. James Walker III, Beau
Levesque and Carter all score between 9.4 and 9.5 ppg to add to the balance
Although Saint Mary's has the homecourt advantage and is 15-3 in Moraga this
season, the higher seeds in this event don't always have the edge considering
many are disappointed to have missed out on the NCAA Tournament field and are
mentally checked out, as SMC showed in 2009. Utah has been more battled tested
this season and should be able to use its well-balanced attack to advance to
the second round.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah 75, Saint Mary's 70
03/18 10:31:44 ET