Saint Mary's is why every game matters
Making the tournament doesn't just happen in February
In the first half of Saint Mary’s 78-71 loss to Utah Tuesday night, even watching on TV 2,799 miles away, you could already feel the pressure, the knowledge that a season was on the line.
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Utah had just hit another in a quick string of open 3s; Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett had called timeout. The Gaels were down 30-23 with about six minutes until halftime, which, if slightly discouraging, shouldn’t have been an obvious disaster in and of itself. The Utes were shooting nearly 60 percent from the field at that stage, and SMC had missed a few good chances, even if star guard Aidan Mahaney seemed to be dropping in every difficult runner he took. There was time to sort things out, tighten up defensively. There was a lot of game left.
But even then, when the timeout started, the Gaels silently rushed to the bench. There were few high fives, few encouraging claps. The way players and coaches interacted with each other — everybody sit down and listen, one of those vibes — gave off more than a modest hint of desperation. Saint Mary’s had to get this figured out, and it had to get it figured out now.
And they were right. They should have been desperate. It was Nov. 27, and their season was falling apart.