Saint Mary's Gaels (8-6) vs. Kent State Golden Flashes (7-4), Friday, Dec 29, 8:00 PM ET,
They may have been picked to win the West Coast Conference but the Saint Mary’s Gaels (8-6) have really struggled during their non-conference schedule, to the point that their hopes of making the NCAA Tournament without the conference’s automatic bid may be gone. Friday night they host Kent State (7-4) hoping to avoid going into conference play on a two-game losing streak. The Gaels are just 2-4 over the first two quads and even though their road win over Colorado State is impressive, they’re also just 5-2 in the last two quads with losses to both Missouri State and Weber State at home.
Randy Bennett’s team is still one of the best defensive teams in the country, ranking 19th in the country in defensive efficiency. The problems for the Gaels come at the other end of the floor where their best percentage is their 49.7% two-point percentage is just inside the top-200. They only make 29% of their three-point attempts and they are one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country at 64%.
Their opponents, the Golden Flashes who were a preseason favorite in the MAC have arguably been equally disappointing at 7-4. Entering this game, they have just one win outside of quad 4, a road win at South Dakota State. If Saint Mary’s wants any hopes of being in the at-large conversation a win over Kent State before beginning league play is an absolute must.