Saint Mary’s beat Northern Iowa 57-41 as part of ESPN’s 24-hour tip-off marathon.
St. Mary's is a team that was eliminated in the first round of the NIT last season after a remarkable run to the Sweet 16 in 2010, which ultimately ended in a loss to Baylor.
Northern Iowa knows what it’s like to be a Cinderella story themselves, having upset Kansas to reach the Sweet 16 in that same 2010 NCAA Tournament.
So what did we learn about the St. Mary’s Gaels in their win over Northern Iowa?
Well, at times their offense looked out of sync and confused. However, they made up for their offensive struggles with a superb defensive showing. The Gaels held Northern Iowa to a 21.4 field goal percentage before the half.
Not only did Northern Iowa rarely get off an uncontested shot, there were points when they couldn’t even get off an uncontested pass.
The Gaels' offense surely misses its leader and point guard from last season, Mickey McConnell. Not only was McConnell a clutch shooter, the entire offense fed off of him.
This year, it seems like the point guard duties will go to junior Matthew Dellavedova.
Dellavedova is no slouch. He earned All-West Coast Conference honors last season and spent his summer playing for the Boomers, Australia’s national team (where he backed up former St. Mary’s star Patty Mills).
While playing for the Boomers, Dellavedova got the experience of playing against NBA players Tony Parker, Pau and Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.
It should be noted, however, that Dellavedova struggled when called upon to play the point last season (see the Vanderbilt game). He may be more useful as a shooting guard; in that case, sophomores Stephen Holt and Jorden Page will see action at the point.
In the future, the Gaels will be tested when they play a team with height.
Saint Mary’s hasn’t had a true center since Omar Samhan graduated two seasons ago. Last season, a combination of Mitchell Young, Rob Jones and Kenton Walker were serviceable.
This season coach Randy Bennett will look at those same players in addition to Brad Waldow, listed as 6’9”, and transfer Kyle Rowley, listed at 7’0”.
The Gaels next head to Denver for a game on November 23rd before playing San Francisco State at home November 27th.