Photos by Tod Fierner (Martinez News-Gazette)
Saint Mary’s Men’s Basketball made the trek out to Provo to take on the BYU Cougars at the Marriott Center. This marked the first time since 2017 that the Gaels played at BYU as a ranked team, and also the last time that BYU hosted a ranked team not named Gonzaga. The game played out about how most people expected it to be, coming down to the final horn. As he has so often this season, Aidan Mahaney was the man, making the game-winning shot with 0.3 seconds on the clock to beat BYU 57-56 and keep the Gaels unbeaten in WCC play.
IT LOOKED GOOD EARLY
In every Saint Mary’s game as of late, an early run has given the Gaels separation from their opponent. That was just as present as ever on Saturday night in Provo, as the Gaels used a 14-0 run that spanned 7:30 in game time to turn what was an early 7-3 deficit into a 17-7 lead. During that stretch, the Gaels forced four BYU turnovers and held them scoreless for nearly eight minutes. Alex Ducas helped kickstart the Gaels offense with eight early points, while Logan Johnson added five points during the run. That did a great job of quieting a raucous Marriott Center crowd.
THEY CLAWED BACK
That early double-digit point lead for the Gaels was erased quickly after BYU countered with a fierce 17-3 run of their own, which gave BYU a three-point lead with less than a minute to go in the half. The Gaels offense went ice cold, finishing the half going 1-9 and going nearly four minutes without hitting a basket. Dallin Hall got up to 11 points suddenly for the Cougars, and had it not been for three free throws by Augustas Marciulionis to tie the game before half, the Gaels would have been trailing at the break.
EBBS AND FLOWS
The second half seemed to have a similar feel to the first half, where the Gaels raced out to an eight-point lead after a 9-2 run. That 37-29 lead did not last long, though, as BYU came right back to make it a two-point Gaels lead with just nine minutes remaining. The rest of the half saw Saint Mary’s push the lead near 10 points, only to have the Cougars shrink it back to a one-possession game. Neither team had a run of more than four points from 13:00 remaining to the under-four minute media timeout.
Spencer Johnson was the man down the stretch for BYU, as he gave BYU a late lead on back-to-back three-pointers with just over two minutes to go, putting the Cougars up 55-53. A different Johnson tied the game, as Logan for SMC hit a tough jumper to knot it up at 55-55 with 1:55 to go. It would remain scoreless until Hall was fouled on the last shot attempt by BYU, but he made just one free throw with just over 10 seconds left. With a 56-55 lead, the Gaels turned to Aidan Mahaney, who was scoreless in the first half, but his final shot of the night is all that matters. 10 years after the Matthew Dellavedova game-winner in Provo, Mahaney pulled up from mid-range and knocked down a bucket with 0.3 seconds left to beat the Cougars 57-56.
AMONG OTHER NUMBERS
Points in the paint were an area of concern for the Gaels, as a normally strong SMC squad lost the battle by four points…those numbers were a direct result of the performance on the glass, where the Gaels were -8 on the rebounds …one thing that traveled well for Saint Mary’s was their three-point shooting, as they went 6-14 for the game, including 50% in the first half…five Gaels reached double-digits, led by Johnson with 14, but Mahaney had all 10 of his points in the second half…Mitchell Saxen got a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while adding four assists.
“I just wanted to give us a good look, look for the best shot…it went up and it went in and then the rest is history. I think I could have played better tonight but for us to grind out a win…we highlight gritty as a word for our team, and that’s kind of how I would define what happened. I channeled by inner Carter Mahaney.” – Aidan Mahaney
A huge week awaits Saint Mary’s as the Gaels return home for two rivalry games inside University Credit Union Pavilion. Up first is the San Francisco Dons, in their final regular season matchup against USF this season. Tip-off of that February 2 contest is set for 8:00 pm on ESPNU. Then the Gaels will turn their attentions to No. 14 Gonzaga, as the Bulldogs come to Moraga on February 4. That game will be televised on ESPN at 7:30 pm.