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Feb 20, 2024 2:07 am

No. 18 Saint Mary’s looks to stay perfect in WCC

Augustas Marciulionis

Saint Mary’s will try for its 14th straight victory when the No. 18 Gaels host San Francisco in a West Coast Conference game in Moraga, Calif., on Tuesday night.

Saint Mary’s (21-6, 12-0 WCC) owns a two-game lead over San Francisco and Gonzaga in conference play and sits in prime position to make the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season for the first time in school history.

The Gaels kept their winning streak alive with a 103-59 victory against Pepperdine on Thursday night, their second-most points scored in a non-overtime conference game since 1996.

Saint Mary’s also owns one of the stingiest defenses in the country, allowing the second-fewest points per game in the NCAA (57.7 points per game).

“I don’t think teams really like to grind with us and grit with us on defense for 40 minutes,” Saint Mary’s guard Alex Ducas said. “We kind of have an attitude as a team to break them. Let’s see how long they can go before they break. … No team is going to want to grind with us for 40 minutes. No team wants to do it hard and tough for that long.”

Pepperdine managed to stay within single digits and even trailed by just two with five minutes left in the first half before the Gaels finished with a 16-3 run, capped by a half-court shot by Ducas at the buzzer.

Saint Mary’s then put up 60 points in the second half to reach triple digits for the first time since a 107-28 season-opening win against Stanislaus State.

“We eventually wore them down and got a little separation,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “Once you do, the basket gets a little bigger for us and a little smaller for them. I just think we wore them down. That halfcourt shot at half helped. We were in a pretty good position, but it took us a while to get to that position, then going in (to halftime) up 16 helped us a lot.”

Saint Mary’s guard Augustas Marciulionis will look to build on his best game of the season.

The junior from Lithuania scored a career-high 28 points against Pepperdine, converting 11 of 16 from the field while contributing five rebounds and a team-high six assists without a turnover.

Over his past six games, Marciulionis is averaging 18.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists while owning a 7.2 assist-to-turnover ratio.

San Francisco (21-6, 10-2) has won six in a row, most recently toppling Loyola Marymount 82-59 on Saturday night. That win came on the heels of three straight single-digit victories against Pacific, Pepperdine and Santa Clara.

The Dons hosted Saint Mary’s on Jan. 20 and were outrebounded 41-24 in the 77-60 loss, which ended their seven-game winning streak.

San Francisco coach Chris Gerlufsen isn’t putting additional pressure on the Dons the second time around.

“It’s the next game on our schedule,” he said. “We did not perform the way that we intended to perform the first time we played them, credit to them, but we’ll be ready to go. We’ll be ready to compete and be tough on Tuesday night in Moraga. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

–Field Level Media

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