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Women's Basketball Prepares For Hilton Concord Classic

Nov. 23, 2006

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This Week In Women's Basketball: The Saint Mary's women's basketball team (1-1, 0-0 WCC) will continue its homestand with the Hilton Concord Thanksgiving Classic. The Gaels will host the Cal State Northridge Matadors (2-2) on Friday, November 24 at 7:05 p.m. and then suit up again on Saturday, November 25 to face either Missouri (3-1) or Alabama (3-1). Both games will be played in McKeon Pavilion.

Hilton Concord Classic: Four teams will be put to the test right after Thanksgiving. On Friday, November 24 the Missouri Tigers will face the Alabama Crimson Tide to open classic play at 5:05 p.m. In the late game, host SMC will face CSUN at 7:05 p.m. Saturday's games will be determined based on the performance of Friday's contests. The winner of both match-ups from Friday's games will play in the late game on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. The third-place game is slated for 5:05 p.m.

Who's Hot: Saint Mary's sophomore guard Jontelle Smith found her shot at the right time. Last season's leading scorer catapulted the Gaels' 48-point second half with 15 of her season-high 17 points in the period. Smith finished the game shooting 7-for-12 from the floor and 3-for-6 from three. Smith also tallied three rebounds and one steal.

Last Time Out: Saint Mary's put together a stellar second half comeback to defeat the University of Miami 69-68. The Gaels rallied off 48 points in the second half and began the period with a 17-3 run that secured the lead for good.

Sophomore guard Jontelle Smith led the Gaels with 17 points while junior forward Monica Mertle poured in 14 points and five rebounds. Junior guard Lauren Shaughnessy chipped in 10 points and tallied a game-high four assists and three steals. Junior forward Maija Lahde also recorded double-digits in points with 10. Lahde grabbed four boards and two steals.

The Gaels shot a lights-out 57-percent (16-for-28) in the second half, including 57-percent (4-for-7) from beyond the arc. SMC drained big free-throws as well, converting 75-percent (21-for-28) in the game.

Scouting Northridge: The Matadors enter Moraga with a 2-2 overall record after splitting their last two games. On the road, CSUN defeated San Jose State 66-63 but then fell in Boulder, CO to the Buffalos 80-64. Northridge was defeated in its season opener by West Coast Conference foe San Diego 95-77.

Overall the Matadors have been out-scored by their opponents 76.2-71.0. CSUN is shooting a solid 45-percent from the floor but only 23 percent from three and 60 percent from the line. The Matadors have also been out-rebounded by a -3.0 margin.

Individually, the Matadors are led by senior forward Ofa Tulikihihifo and Jamie McCaa. Tulikihihifo leads the team with 15 points per game and 7.8 boards per contest while shooting 56 percent. McCaa has tallied 13.3 points per game, 6.8 rebounds and a team high 12 steals. Ashley Blake has handed out a team-high 18 assists and 9.8 points per game.

Versus Northridge: The game against the Matadors will mark the fifth meeting between the two schools. The Gaels have won all four meetings including three at McKeon Pavilion. The last time the two teams met was in 2002 in Northridge when SMC took a 51-45 victory.

Scouting Alabama: The Crimson Tide heads into the Hilton Concord Classic with a 3-1 overall record. Alabama is coming off two straight victories including a 60-57 triumph over Southern Louisiana. The lone loss for the Crimson Tide came against Arkansas State with the score 73-56.

Alabama has been living dangerously only out-scoring its opponents by a +2.5 margin. The Crimson Tide has shot 42 percent while holding their opponents to a 40 percent mark. On the boards, Alabama holds a 37.2 to 28.8 advantage for a +8.5 margin.

Individually the Crimson Tide is led by Kate Mastin and Navonda Moore. Mastin leads the team with 14.3 points per game on 41 percent shooting from the floor and 39 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Moore closely follows with 11.3 points per clip in four starts. Natalie Reshard leads the team on the glass with 6.8 boards per contest while pouring in 6.8 points per game as well.

Versus Alabama: The two programs have only met once in their history with the Gaels suffering a tough 61-59 loss in 1999 from McKeon Pavilion.

Scouting Missouri: The Tigers enter Moraga with a 3-1 overall record. Mizzou is coming off its first defeat of the season after falling to No. 11-ranked Stanford 75-60 in its first West Coast road-trip of the year. The Tigers sport three victories with all three coming in a row to tip-off the season. Mizzou has defeated Southern Illinois, Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Arkansas State.

Missouri is averaging 73.5 points per game while shooting 40-percent from the floor. Mizzou has pulled down 38.8 boards per contest and hands out 15.5 assists per clip. Opponents are averaging 62 points per game while shooting 44.5 percent from the floor.

Individually the Lady Tigers are led by Tiffany Brooks and Alyssa Hollins. Brooks is averaging a team-leading 16.8 points per game, 14 assists and 11 steals. Hollins closely follows with 14 points per contest while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 90 percent from the charity stripe. EeTisha Riddle leads the Tigers on the glass, pulling down 8.5 boards per game while pouring in 11 points per game.

Versus Missouri: The potential meeting in the Hilton Concord Thanksgiving Classic would be the first for the two programs.

Paul Thomas Records First Gael Victory: First-year head coach Paul Thomas recorded his first career Division I victory with a 69-68 win over Miami. Event though Thomas has won 235 times in his 12-year career, the thrilling win over Miami marks his first as a Gael and the first for SMC in the 2006-07 season.

Second Half Surges: In two games this season, Saint Mary's has waited for the second 20-minutes to dominate its opponents. Overall the Gaels have outscored their opponents 74-64 in the half, including a 48-point out-put against the University of Miami. Against No. 21-ranked Cal, SMC roared back for a 29-26 advantage.

WCC Rankings: After two weeks of action the Gaels stack up in several categories in the West Coast Conference. As a team, SMC leads the conference in defensive 3-point percentage, holding opponents to a .208 percentage from beyond the arc. The Gaels also lead the WCC in offensive rebounds with 14 per game. SMC is second in the WCC in holding opponents to just a .375 shooting clip from the floor. The Gaels rank third in blocks per game with four and steals per game with 10.5.

Individually Lauren Shaughnessy ranks second in steals per game with three while Monica Mertle is also second with a .600 shooting percentage from beyond the arc. Jontelle Smith is averaging two threes per game which is third in the conference while Eghosa Obaiza's two blocked shots per contest ranks fourth. Obaiza also ranks fifth in offensive rebounds with three per game and sixth in defensive rebounds with 4.50 per clip. The senior is also sixth in rebounding with 7.50 per game. Shaughnessy and Serena Benavente are tied for seventh with three assists per game. Shaughnessy is fifth overall in assist/turnover ratio with a 1.50 margin. Mertle sits in seventh in scoring, pouring in 14 points per game.

Shaughnessy Returns: Saint Mary's junior guard Lauren Shaughnessy did not show ill effects from a year away from the game. Against Miami, Shaughnessy tallied 10 points, four assists and three steals in 32 minutes. In 26 minutes of action, the Bellevue, WA native tallied eight points, three steals, two rebounds and two assists.

Gaels Ink Two Recruits: Saint Mary's women's head basketball coach Paul Thomas announced the signing of Suzie Davis (Oxnard, CA) and Leanna Richey (Brentwood, CA).

Davis preps at Pacifica High School where she is a two-time Pacific View first-team selection and all-county selection. The 5-11 guard/forward led the Pacific View League in scoring (17 ppg), rebounds (11 ppg), blocks (3bpg) and steals (3spg). Richey led Liberty High to an 18-10 overall record and a 10-4 BVAL mark. The 6-3 post is also a standout on the volleyball court earning All-BVAL accolades.

Three Newcomer Join Roster: Saint Mary's welcomes three new players to the squad in 2006-07. The Gaels welcome freshmen Lindsay Ellis, from Sacramento, CA and Kira Kojola, from Espoo, Finland, along with junior college transfer Mattiana Thalley, from Carson CA and Compton Community College.

Saint Mary's Picked To Finish Fifth In WCC: The Gaels were picked to finish fifth in the West Coast Conference in 2006-07. The Gaels finished in fifth place last year, but return four starters and bring in a new head coach in Paul Thomas. Saint Mary's received 28 points, five points behind Santa Clara for fourth. Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount were picked to finish first and Gonzaga was picked to finish third. San Diego, San Francisco and Portland rounded out the final eight.

Next Week: Saint Mary's will continue its homestand on Monday, November 27 against Utah State. Tip-off is slated for 7:05 p.m. from McKeon Pavilion. The Gaels will then embark on their longest trip thus far when they head to Eugene, OR to face the Ducks on Thursday, November 30. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. from the McArthur Court.