Feb. 26, 2005
(SAN DIEGO, CA) - The San Diego Toreros battled Saint Mary's from start to finish, but came up on the short end in a evenly contested 86-83 game before 3,442 fans at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. Senior Brandon Gay, who finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds, missed two three pointers in the last nine seconds, including one at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime. USD closes out the regular season with a 15-12 mark and 7-7 WCC record, good for a first round bye in next week's WCC Tournament. Saint Mary's heads to the WCC Championships as the No. 2 seed at 24-7 overall and 11-3.
"I told our team that I was proud of the way they turned this season around," said head coach Brad Holland. "We won five league games in the second half and only lost to the No. 1 and No. 2 finishers in Gonzaga and Saint Mary's. We'll come back and get a solid week of work in and get ourselves ready for next week's WCC Tournament."
Saint Mary's got a big night out of forward Daniel Kickert who made a variety of shots from all over the floor to finish with a game-high 32 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Senior guard Paul Marigney also turned in a solid effort with 23 points. Between Kickert (6-8) and Marigney (4-7), they combined to make 10 three pointers as the Gaels canned 12-of-21 from beyond the arc.
Torero junior Corey Belser gave USD a big lift with a season-best 17 points to go with 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Joining Gay with 14 points was center Brice Vounang and Floyd North, III off the bench. Nick Lewis, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Brett Melton (a Brad Holland tradition to start all seniors in last home game), finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds.
In the first half Saint Mary's built leads of 8 on three occasions, and was briefly ahead by 9 points at 37-28 with 3:24 to go before intermission. USD made a run late behind the play of North who scored 7 points in the final 3 minutes, including a driving layup at the buzzer to pull the Toreros within one at 40-39.
In the 2nd half the Gaels enjoyed four more leads of 8 points, the last coming at 79-71 with 3:55 to go on a jumper by E.J. Rowland. USD answered with a Vounang basket, a free throw by Brice, and jumper by Gay to get the Toreros within 3 at 79-76 with 1:51 left. From there the Gaels made 7-of-8 free throws to hang onto the lead and hold off USD's comeback. Ross DeRogatis made a trey with :10 seconds left to pull USD with three at 86-83, but USD was unable to cash in on their final two three-point attempts.
For the game USD shot 53.4% from the floor (31-58) and stayed close in the rebounding department with SMC holding a 31-29 advantage. The Gaels went to the free throw line 35 times and made 28 (80%), while the host Toreros cashed in on just 14-of-18 (77.8%).