GAME NOTES: The Saint Mary's-CA Gaels try to rebound from an unexpected setback as they clash with host Hawaii in the semifinal round of the annual Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Gaels landed in Honolulu as one of only a handful of undefeated teams still remaining at the Division I level, having ripped off nine wins in as many opportunities. The trend should have continued considering SMC was going up against a South Carolina foe that was coming off back-to-back defeats to Manhattan and USC Upstate, but that simply wasn't the case.
Instead of potentially grabbing three wins in four days in Hawaii, the Gaels ended up with a 78-71 setback versus the Gamecocks and are now on the losers side of the bracket.
Meanwhile, Hawaii continues to find out the hard way that hosting this annual holiday event by no means guarantees any success as they came up short against former Western Athletic Conference foe Boise State in the late game on Sunday, 62-61. The defeat snapped a five-game win streak for the Rainbow Warriors, and marked just their second setback in seven chances at home in 2013-14.
In terms of the all-time series between these two programs, Hawaii won the only previous meeting in a 94-70 blowout back in 1981 at home.
The Gaels were paced by Brad Waldow with a game-high 20 points, while Beau Levesque tallied 15 points and a team-best eight rebounds in the loss to South Carolina. Stephen Holt tacked on 14 points and six assists and James Walker III another 13 points in the setback. SMC appeared to be out of sync in the first half, trailing by as many as 12 points in the period as it shot just 9- of-31 (.290) from the floor, en route to a 33-27 deficit at the break.
The Gaels suffered their lowest-scoring first half of the season, as Waldow failed to register a single field goal through the first 20 minutes of play. Saint Mary's finished the meeting 7-of-19 behind the 3-point line and was outscored in the paint by a 40-28 margin as well. It also didn't help the Gaels that their reserves were outscored by USC's backups, 26-5.
The leading scorer in two straight games and four of the last five for the Gaels, Waldow is producing 17.8 ppg as he shoots 62.2 percent from the floor, but the team got a clear indication of what can happen when he gets off to a slow start. Holt checks in with 13.4 ppg, Walker and Levesque 11.5 and 11.4 ppg, respectively, for a team generating 77.9 ppg and outscoring the opposition by close to 14 per outing.
The Rainbow Warriors were paced by Brandon Spearman who tallied 17 points, followed by Keith Shamburger and Isaac Fotu with 13 and 12 points, respectively, as the squad bowed by just a single point to Boise State.
The Rainbow Warriors were slow to get out of the gate, needing more than three minutes to register their first points of the night. Boise State led by as many as eight points in the first half, shooting 52.4 percent from the floor, but the visitors fell behind by a point at the break, 32-31.
Hawaii had a chance to knot the score with 8.7 seconds remaining as Quincy Smith went to the free-throw line to shoot two, but he missed the first attempt before making the second. Hawaii one last chance to claim the win, but a desperation shot from just inside half court by Garrett Nevels bounced off the rim.
In a game that featured six ties and 10 lead changes, the Rainbow Warriors hurt themselves with 16 turnovers and a number of key misses at the charity stripe.
Christian Standhardinger, who was plagued with foul trouble on Sunday and finished with just seven points and a single rebound in 22 minutes of action, continues to be the leading scorer for Hawaii with his 17.3 ppg and is also tops on the glass with 7.1 rpg, yet the Broncos showed it was possible to make him a non-factor. Nevels (13.4 ppg), Fotu (12.9 ppg), Spearman (11.3 ppg) and Shamburger (11.1 ppg) are all heavily involved in pushing the squad to score 83.9 ppg right now.
After the upset on Sunday, expect the Gaels to make a conscious effort to get Waldow going early in the contest this time around, and force Standhardinger to again be physical and possibly send him to the bench early yet again.
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