No. 21 Saint Mary's seeks better defense vs. Georgia (Nov 26, 2017)
Saint Mary's will get its chance at a resume-building win on Sunday against Georgia in the Wooden Legacy tournament.
But it will come in the third-place game -- not in the championship where the Gaels hoped to be -- in Fullerton, Calif., after the No. 21 Gaels' upset loss to Washington State.
Saint Mary's (5-1) allowed Washington State to shoot 51.7 percent in its 84-79 loss on Friday. The Gaels also allowed the Cougars to shoot 56.3 percent from 3-point range.
It was just the third time in more than two years that Saint Mary's allowed an opponent to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor.
"It's simple," Gaels coach Randy Bennett said after the loss, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "We didn't guard anywhere close to well enough to beat a team like Washington State. That's been our Achilles' heel thus far, and it certainly was apparent today. We certainly didn't do a good enough job defensively, especially defending the ball.
"We've got work to do."
The Cougars shot 62 percent from the floor in the second half, when they built a 15-point lead. The Gaels' late 9-0 run was too late to catch the team picked to finish last in the Pac-12 this season.
The Gaels had won 64 consecutive games when shooting 50 percent or higher from the floor.
Now they must contend with an angry Bulldogs team that surrendered a game-ending 12-4 run in a 75-68 loss to San Diego State on Friday.
A win over Georgia (4-1) will carry more value with the NCAA Tournament committee in March than would wins over West Coast Conference rivals like Portland or Pepperdine.
The Bulldogs must first overcome a strange malady that hit members on the team on Friday.
"I'm assuming it's food poisoning," Georgia coach Mark Fox told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "It started at 2 o'clock in the morning and affected a few players on our team to the point where they weren't going to be able to play."
Six-foot-9 junior Mike Edwards was reportedly left at the team's hotel.
The Bulldogs led by as many as 12 points in the first half but were just 8-for-24 from 3-point range for the game, and their preseason SEC Player of the Year pick, Yante Maten, made just 4 of 15 shots.
Despite Friday's struggles, Saint Mary's is another defensive-minded team.
The Gaels allowed Washington State runs of 13-3 and 15-3 in the second half on Friday.
"It's probably one of our worst games of the year defensively," Saint Mary's Calvin Hermanson said. "We've just got to be tougher."
The Gaels will have to avoid foul trouble on Sunday.
Their preseason All-America candidate, Jock Landale, scored 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting, but played for much of the second half with three fouls. Hermanson also pick up three fouls.
After three games in four days, both teams are off until Dec. 2.
Saint Mary's has a road game at Bay Area rival California, which suffered a blowout loss to Division II Chaminade in the Maui Invitational last week.
Georgia has another tough assignment when it plays at Marquette.