March 15, 2009
Moraga, CA - The Saint Mary's men's basketball season will continue on Tuesday, March 17 when the Gaels host the Washington State Cougars in the opening round of the 2009 National Invitational Tournament. The selection to the 2009 NIT marks the first appearance in this tournament for Saint Mary's.
After not being selected as one of the 34 at-large teams, Saint Mary's earned a two-seed in the 2009 NIT. The Gaels will take on the Cougars on Tuesday night in an 8 p.m. Pacific Time game at McKeon Pavilion, which will be televised on ESPN2. Tuesday's game between Saint Mary's and Washington State will mark the first ever meeting between the two schools.
Saint Mary's finished the 2008-09 season with a 26-6 overall record, finished second in the West Coast Conference with a 10-4 campaign and posted runner-up in the 2009 WCC Tournament, following to No. 14 Gonzaga in the championship game. The Gaels have three First Team All-WCC selections in Diamon Simpson, Omar Samhan and Patrick Mills.
Saint Mary's will face a Washington State squad that posted a 17-15 overall record and bowed out of the Pac-10 Tournament with a second round loss to UCLA (64-53) on Mar. 12. The Cougars have won three of its last five games, which include wins over Arizona (69-53), Arizona State (51-59), in overtime, and Oregon (62-40). WSU had three players that average double figures, with Taylor Rochestie leading the way with 13.2 points per game. Rochestie also leads the team with 149 assists and 30 steals. Klay Thompson averages 12.7 points per outing and Aron Baynes added 12.5 points, while leading the team with 7.4 rebounds per game.
Simpson averages a double-double with 13.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and was named the WCC Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year. Simpson has 15 double-doubles this season, for 35 in his career, is the school's record holder for rebound (1,090), blocks (236), and steals (167). Samhan is the team's second leading scorer and rebounder, as he averages 14.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. He leads the 2008-09 team in blocks with 64, and now ranks second in blocked shots with 154 career rejections. In his last game, Samhan scored a career-high 29 points to go along with 12 rebounds, as he recorded his 14th double-double of the season and 23rd of his career. Mills, who recently returned to the line-up after missing nine games with a broken hand, is the team's leading scorer as he averages 17.8 points per game as a sophomore. With Mills in the line-up, Saint Mary's posted a 20-2 record, which included an 18-1 start to the season, which included a school record 15-game win streak. Mills also averages a team-high 3.5 assists and 2.3 steals per outing.
To purchase tickets for this game call the ticket office at 925.631.GoTx or log on to www.SMCGaels.com.