March 8, 2013
LAS VEGAS - Prior to the Gaels' West Coast Conference Championships quarterfinal game against Portland, Saint Mary's head coach Paul Thomas predicted a gritty defensive struggle against the seventh-seeded Pilots.
He couldn't have been more accurate.
The third-seeded Gaels overcame a tough outside shooting day with a solid defensive effort to register a 54-51 victory and advance to tomorrow's semifinals at Orleans Arena. Saint Mary's will face second-seeded San Diego in a 2:30 p.m. tipoff with the winner advancing to Monday's championship final against either Gonzaga or BYU.
The junior trio of Kate Gaze, Danielle Mauldin and Jackie Nared combined to score 37 of the team's 54 points to left the Gaels to their 20th win of the season and the third against the Pilots. The Gaels improved to 20-9, while Portland ended its season with a 11-20 record.
"It has been a battle in all three games that we've played them," said Thomas. "It hasn't been the prettiest basketball. It was really physical out there and I think we just had a little more in the tank today."
Four of the Gaels' starters scored in double figures, led by Nared and Gaze with 13 points apiece. Nared's 10 rebounds gave her a double-double, joining Mauldin who scored 11 points to go with 10 boards. Morgan Hatten scored 11 points.
Saint Mary's limited Portland to just 19.4 percent from behind the 3-point, well below the Pilots' 30.3 percentage on the season. The Pilots went 6-for-31 from that distance, which included a 4-of-10 effort from reserve Kari Luttinen.
The two teams stuggled to get going offensive early in the game, with the Gaels going more than three minutes before scoring their first basket. Neither team was able to lead by more than six points during the first half.
Morgan Hatten and Nared paced the team offensively in the first half, each scoring a game-high nine points in the first 20 minutes.
Tomorrow's semifinal game will be televised live by BYUtv, which will also be streamed live via WCCSports.com. Alex Jensen will provide an audio description of the game via Gaels Live on SMCGaels.com.