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NCAA Tournament: Saint Mary's couldn't win against Arizona the way it had all season

Published March 18, 2017 10:43 pm

Gaels unable to get inside-outside game going.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Saint Mary's usual strengths — pounding the ball inside with junior center Jock Landale, knocking down 3-pointers and one of the toughest defenses in the nation — weren't at the level they'd been at throughout the season.

That's why one of the best seasons in program history ended a game short of the Sweet 16 with a loss to Arizona on Saturday night in Vivint Smart Home Arena.

Landale scored 10 of the team's first 14 points, but he finished with 19 points (seven in the second half), while the Gaels, who made 40 percent of their 3-pointers coming into Saturday night, went 5 of 21 from long range.

"I think they started to front me in the post a lot more, making it tough for me to catch," Landale said. "I was catching it out a lot farther, which is my fault. I have to do a better job of getting a deep catch. But, I mean, our guys were getting wide-open shots. I felt like we were moving the ball pretty well in the first half. It was nothing out of the ordinary. We're used to that stuff, but we just didn't hit shots at the clip we usually do."

Saint Mary's came into the tournament with the second-best scoring defense in the nation, and coach Randy Bennett said earlier this week that it might be the best defensive team he's had in 16 season at the program.

However, Arizona kept chipping away until it exposed holes that hadn't been there most of the season. The Wildcats scored 14 points through the first 15 minutes of the game, but ultimately outstanding offense and tremendous athletes trumped the great team defense Saint Mary's played all season.

"In the first half, it felt like we did a pretty good job on defense — the first 10, 14 minutes or so," Gaels junior forward Calvin Hermanson said. "We were forcing them into taking tough shots. It seemed like they were only really scoring when they were getting offensive rebounds. Then second half, it seemed like they were a little more aggressive attacking the paint."

Wildcats guard Allonzo Trier scored 14 second-half points and served as a catalyst, helping the Pac-12 champions shoot 59.1 percent from the field after halftime.

The Wildcats made more than twice as many free throws as Saint Mary's attempted (19 compared with eight). Saint Mary's forward Duane Pineau fouled out and Evan Fitzner and Hermanson collected four fouls apiece.

"Our advantage was driving," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "Our advantage, I think, eventually was to be able to get the ball inside. And I think getting the ball to the basket. Whether it be on the drive or post catch, we delivered. We scored. We got fouled. And I think that was the big difference."


Twitter: @LWorthySports






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