Utah St.-Saint Mary’s Preview

Utah State coach Stew Morrill has bad memories of his team’s

last trip to Saint Mary’s two years ago.

He probably would also like to forget about last season’s

meeting, as well.

In this budding rivalry, the 25th-ranked Aggies hope to avenge

these last two defeats as they visit the Gaels in an ESPN

BracketBuster game on Saturday night.

Utah State (24-3) and Saint Mary’s (22-5) are each atop their

respective conferences, and are two of the top mid-majors in the

country. The Gaels, of the West Coast Conference, were ranked

earlier this year, but have fallen out of the Top 25 after losing

three of their last eight games.

The Aggies, from the Western Athletic Conference, have only lost

once in their last 20, but adding another victory to this run won’t

be easy.

“We are obviously very familiar with (the Gaels) and the games

we have had with them the last several years have been tough

outings for us,” Morrill said. “The main thing for our guys is that

they approach this game as an opportunity and are excited about

getting to go compete.”

Morrill’s team should be plenty motivated considering the way

the last two meetings have gone.

Saint Mary’s was the last team to beat Utah State on its home

floor, winning 68-63 on Dec. 5, 2009, and ending the Aggies’

37-game home winning streak.

The Gaels have won 19 consecutive home games, and are 42-3 in

Moraga since the 2008-09 season. This includes a 75-64 win over

Utah State in the 2009 BracketBuster, but a scheduling mishap and a

long delay at an airport may have contributed to that outcome.

“The last trip we took to Saint Mary’s was a mess,” Morrill

said. “We made the mistake of scheduling a flight before we really

knew our game time, and I am not using this as an excuse by any

means, but I really felt that we didn’t give our team as much of a

chance to compete in the game as we should have. We didn’t get a

chance to shoot around because the game was in the early afternoon

and we looked out of it in that game and we played out of it.”

The Aggies, ninth in the nation in scoring defense at 58.4

points, will need to be prepared for the Gaels’ high-powered

offense or they could quickly find themselves out of it again.

Saint Mary’s, 12th in scoring at 80.3 points, is led by senior

guard Mickey McConnell, who is averaging 23.7 points in his last

seven games, 6.8 better than his team-leading average.

McConnell had 21 points on 10 of 16 shooting and sophomore

Mitchell Young scored 24 on 10 of 14 from the floor Wednesday

against San Diego, but the rest of the team combined for 21 points

on 8 of 30 shooting in a 74-66 loss. The Gaels led by 11 in the

second half, but couldn’t keep up with the Toreros, who had 50

points on 66.7 percent shooting after halftime.

“We’ll be up for Utah State,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett

said. “We were up tonight, they just outplayed us. That happens

sometimes.”

The Aggies had little trouble in their last game, routing NAIA

school Montana Western 100-66 on Wednesday. Tai Wesley had 20

points and caused the game to be delayed by 50 minutes after

shattering a backboard with a dunk at halftime.

Wesley, who averages a team-best 14.3 points, scored 12 against

the Gaels last season, and had seven points and seven rebounds

against them two years ago.

That meeting was the first between these programs since 1978.

They’ll meet again next year at Utah State.