PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Halftime thoughts from Saint Mary’s 38-31 lead over Villanova:
America and Australia better get on this bandwagon quick if the score holds. Tell me if there is a more fun team to watch playing right not outside of the top seeds than Saint Mary’s. The Gaels have one of the best big men playing in the extroverted Omar Samhan and plenty of shooters that rain down 3-pointers at will in Ben Allen, Matthew Dellavedova and the ultimate launcher in Mickey McConnell.
The Gaels are a great team to watch. They share the ball. They move it around the perimeter well, get it into the paint to Samhan, and can back it out again if he's double teamed.
Samhan picked up two quick fouls, the latter on an offensive foul. Yet Gaels coach Randy Bennett made a bold move when he, not once but twice, put Samhan back in the game. The first time was to see if Samhan could continue to generate offense. The shocker was when Bennett sensed the Gaels needed another bucket and put him in with 1:25 left and the ‘Cats on a run. Corey Stokes had made consecutive 3s to cut the lead to 33-27. Samhan came into the game and hit a leaning bucket off the glass and got fouled. The bucket plus the free throw pushed the Gaels to 36-29. Samhan shushed the crowd, which drew official Gary Maxwell to remind him to watch it. Still the damage was done as Samhan put the Gaels up by seven.
Villanova clearly came to play this game following their lackluster effort against Robert Morris. But here’s the rub. The ‘Cats are playing a team that isn’t intimidated by the Big East, the ‘Nova Nation name or the heralded guards. Villanova has to continue to make 3s in the second half, get into the lane to get Samhan in foul trouble and get out more on the shooters.
If Villanova comes back and wins this game then it may be their best effort of the season. Saint Mary’s seems to be on a mission.