Gaels Shutdown New Mexico Lobos, Avenge Last Season’s Loss
And Aidan Mahaney tied his career-high score with his third career 25-point game with Saint Mary's.
Continuing their strong play at the season's outset, the Gaels were in command from the start of their second game, defeating the New Mexico Lobos in a defensive juggernaut of a contest, 72-58. The win was a bit sweeter than usual for the Gaels, who fell to this New Mexico squad just a year ago 69-65 in Moraga. That loss snapped a program-record 18-game home unbeaten streak, but the win on Thursday night pushed the Gaels to 12 consecutive home wins dating back to last year.
While the Saint Mary's offense looked stellar for long stretches, defense was the name of the game. The Gaels held a strong offensive Lobos squad to just 37.1% shooting from the field and 33.3% shooting from beyond the arc. The Gaels also forced 13 turnovers, resulting in 15 points off of those miscues. Joshua Jefferson and Augustas Marciulionis combined for seven steals in the contest, while Mitchell Saxen swatted away three shots.
Saint Mary's could not have asked for a better start against New Mexico, opening the game on a 13-2 run in the first five minutes of play. Aidan Mahaney accounted for seven of those first 13 points, which gave the Gaels a cushion to play with throughout the remainder of the game. The Lobos cut the deficit to six at the 3:45 mark of the first, but Mahaney once again caught fire, leading the Gaels on an 11-2 run to close out the half as Saint Mary's took a 15-point lead into the halftime break, 40-25. Mahaney finished the first half with 21 points, more than half the Gaels total.
The Gaels would extend their lead to 22, their largest, at the 13:29 mark of the second half before cooling off a bit offensively. That said, the defensive effort remained stellar for Coach Randy Bennett's squad, and even through brief Gael cold spells, the Lobos could not claw their way back. Saint Mary's continues to be one of the toughest teams to play on their home court.
Mahaney tied his career-high score with his third career 25-point game with Saint Mary's. Many may remember that Mahaney's first 25-point game came in his collegiate debut against Oral Roberts last season, while he also scored 25 against Loyola Marymount University in January 2023.
Even more impressively, 21 of Mahaney's 25 points came in the first frame. It was the most points that he has scored in a single half in his career and the most since Matthias Tass scored 22 in the second half against San Francisco in the 2021-22 season.
The big man from Down Under
Harry Wessels tied his career-high scoring total as well with 12 points. Many of Wessel's opportunities were second chance opportunities, as the 7'1" behemoth reeled in a career-best four offensive boards. Led by Wessels and Luke Barrett, the Gaels tallied 14 offensive boards and were able to convert those into 17 second-chance points. Many of those belonged to Wessels, who scored more than half of his points on put-back opportunities.
Wire to Wire
Saint Mary's took the lead in this one at the 19:24 mark of the first half when Mahaney buried an open three off a pass from Maciulionis. From that point on, the Gaels would not trail in the game, leading for 39:24 of the 40-minute contest. It was the Gaels' first wire-to-wire victory since their win over BYU in last year's WCC semifinals.
The Gaels will be back in action at home on Sunday as they take on the Weber State Wildcats. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. inside UCU Pavilion.
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