No. 2 Saint Mary’s (26-5) vs. No. 6 San Diego (16-17)
Season series: Saint Mary’s won 2-0
Game time: 8:30 p.m.
San Diego held on to beat BYU on Friday and the Toreros have momentum on their side. They have won games in back-to-back days and are finding ways at the end of games to hold on.
Although, the Toreros had wins against both of their tournament opponents prior to coming to Las Vegas. That is not the case with Saint Mary’s.
The Gaels swept the season series and have not lost to San Diego since 2011 and neither matchup this year was all that close. Saint Mary’s dominated the first matchup and held San Diego to a season-low 48 points. In the second, Saint Mary’s held San Diego to 39 percent shooting and led by as much as 17.
The winner will be in the WCC Tournament final and face the winner of Loyola Marymount and No. 1 Gonzaga.
The Toreros did just enough to beat BYU and every time the Cougars made a run, they had an answer. Many times that answer came from Johnny Dee. The sophomore guard scored 25 points on 7-for-17 shooting and went 8-for-11 from the line.
San Diego also defended the paint well late. Chris Manresa and Jito Kok both had blocks on shots that would have either increased or given BYU the lead.
Kok was solid off the bench with seven points, five rebounds, and two blocks.
The Toreros will need to be just as opportunistic tonight as they were against BYU. They scored 15 points off of 13 BYU turnovers.
San Diego shot no better than 39 percent against Saint Mary’s in either matchup.
The Gaels might be playing their best basketball right now. They have won five straight, including wins over Creighton and BYU, and their only losses in the new year have been to the now-No. 1 team in the land.
They are also looking for their fifth straight trip to the WCC title game, dating back to 2009.
The last time Saint Mary’s did not make it to the championship game was in 2008 when they were eliminated in the semifinals by, guess who, San Diego in Bill Grier’s first year as the USD head coach.
Brad Waldow has averaged 14 points and Matthew Dellavedova has averaged nine assists in the two games against San Diego this season.
The Gaels also likely need to wrap up this game against San Diego to ensure their at-large status. A loss here could be devastating.
Jordan Giusti will likely play a large role in this game. His defense has caught the attention of many in the league and he will likely have the assignment of guarding either Dee or Chris Anderson.
Predicted winner: Saint Mary’s