Gaels Men’s Basketball Bests Cleveland State in 70–57 Victory

Mitchell Saxen leads scoring for Saint Mary’s with 20 points, tying a career high.

by SMC Athletics | December 6, 2023

Saint Mary's led wire-to-wire, defeating the Cleveland State Vikings in front of the home fans 70-57 on Tuesday evening. The Gaels used extreme physicality against a smaller Viking squad, imposing their will on the interior both offensively and defensively to build up an early lead and then coast to the victory. 

The Gaels asserted their dominance on both sides of the ball in the first half, scoring 30 of their 43 points in the paint, and holding the Vikings to just a 24% field goal percentage, including just a 16% clip from inside the arc. The offense started off cold for the Gaels, but the defense allowed them to find their footing while not surrendering the lead. After starting 3–10 from the field, Saint Mary's closed out the half hitting 14 of their next 21 shots, taking a 43–23 lead into the break. Mitchell Saxen had a half to remember, scoring 17 points on a perfect 7–7 shooting clip. This was the most points Mitchell has scored in a single half in his Saint Mary's career.  

An emphatic Mason Forbes slam gave the Gaels their largest lead at 61–36 at the 9:36 mark of the second half. While the Saint Mary's offense would go a bit cold down the stretch, the deficit was too much to surmount for the Vikings. 

Mitchell Saxen tied his career-high in scoring with 20 points on 7–8 shooting from the field, and 6–8 of shooting from the free throw line. Saxen also tied for the team lead with eight rebounds and tied his season high with three blocks. Aidan Mahaney did a bit of everything with 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and four steals, while Alex Ducas chipped in 10 points. 

Owning the Painted Area

The Gaels surpassed 40 points in the painted area against an NCAA Division I opponent for the first time since last season, when they did it against Pacific in an 83–52 victory. Their 46 points in the paint were the most they have put up since their 85–43 victory over Portland last season. Mitchell Saxen led the Gaels with 14 of his 20 points coming in the key. 

Rooted in Defense

The Gaels put together one of their strongest defensive showings of the season, statistically speaking. Saint Mary's held the Vikings to 35% shooting from the field, including a 36% clip from inside the arc, both season best marks for the Gaels against Division I opponents. As a team, the Gaels came up with 11 steals, the best in any matchup this season, and seven blocks, the most against Division I opponents. Aidan Mahaney set a new career-high with four steals, while Mason Forbes and Mitchell Saxen both notched three blocks. Entering the matchup, the Gaels ranked 14th in the country in scoring defense and 55th in field goal percent defense, both ranks that should climb after the victory. 

As a team, the Gaels came up with 11 steals, the best in any matchup this season.

Saint Mary's forced 15 Cleveland State turnovers, and the Gaels were able to turn those into 20 points. Meanwhile, the Gaels limited themselves to just 10 turnovers, and played stellar transition defense, surrendering just one point off of turnovers.  

Up Next

The Gaels head to Fort Collins, Colorado, to take on the 13th-ranked Rams of Colorado State on Saturday, December 9. Tip off is set for 4:30 p.m. Mountain / 3:30 p.m. Pacific. 

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