St. Mary’s is like a magic trick unfolding before your eyes that you can’t solve no matter how many times you see it (except for Gonzaga). The Gaels play with such stunning synchronicity and precision that it never looks like they have to strain to find good shots. Such was the case in Salt Lake City Thursday night when Randy Bennett’s Gaels blitzed VCU to the tune of 46 first half points on 64 percent (!!) shooting and an offensive efficiency of 124.3. In the second half, VCU extended its defense to get back in the game, but at a price of fouls. St. Mary’s was in the bonus for the bulk of the half, making them even tougher to defend. VCU mucked the game up and never conceded, but the Gaels ultimately prevailed, 85-77.
Three Key Takeaways.
- The center position is evolving. From Vanderbilt’s Luke Kornet to Arizona’s Lauri Markannen to St. Mary’s Jock Landale, stretch centers who have guard skills are becoming increasingly prevalent in basketball. While essentially playing the entire game, Landale put up 16 points on a phenomenally efficient 6-of-8 shooting night along with 13 rebounds.
- St. Mary’s is better than you think defensively. The Gaels came in ranked as the 26th-best defense in the country, and next to their wondrous offense, it shouldn’t be lost in translation how tough this team is on both ends. They held VCU to an Offensive Ratintg of 101.3, limiting the Rams to 2-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc.
- Joe Rahon drives the Gaels. Rahon picked up his third and fourth fouls with 15 minutes left in the game, allowing VCU to immediately go on a 15-2 run to close the lead to four. He then came back in and hit a huge three with 8:17 to go, and VCU never got any closer.
Star of the Game: Joe Rahon stabilized Saint Mary’s when it needed it most — hitting the aforementioned three as well as a big pair of free throws — but this was Jock Landale’s night. VCU coach Will Wade summed it up afterward: “Their bigs were just bigger and better than our bigs. I hate to put it so simply but that’s really the way it is and what it came down to tonight.” Landale was first and foremost among Gael bigs, as he usually is.