Washington Huskies vs. Saint Mary’s: gameplay preview and how to watch

How to watch (and bet)

Date: Thursday, 11/24/22

notice time: 9:30 p.m. (Pacific Time)

TV: ESPN2

Transmission: espn.com/live

Location: Anaheim, Calif.

DraftKings Betting Line: Washington Huskies +11

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Saint Mary’s Gaels 2022-23 statistics:

Record: 6-0

Points per game: 73.8 (120)

Points against per game: 53.8 (12th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 108.6 (50)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 88.0 (7th)

Schedule Strength: 182

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Key Santa Maria Players:

G- Logan Johnson, Sr. 6’2, 177: 11.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.2 apg, 43.5% FG, 21.1% 3pt, 65.0% FT

Johnson has taken over the point guard duties after playing more off the ball last year and has thrived to this point. He prefers to cut to the basket on offense because of his regular 3-point shooting, but he’s adept at running a choice shot and finding the St. Mary’s bigs or ending up at the rim. He’s also a tremendous rebounder for his size.

G – Aidan Mahaney, Father. 6’3, 180: 13.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, 40.6% FG, 46.7% 3pt, 68.8% FT

Mahaney has come in as a true freshman and has been a sensation for the Gaels. Unlike Johnson, he’s struggled to get to the rim, but he’s a terrific 3-point shooter and makes nearly half of his outside shots on 5 attempts a game. He has the potential to be a true zone buster.

G-Alex Ducas, Mr. 6’7, 220: 13.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.8 apg, 47.3% FG, 50.0% 3pt, 61.5% FT

Last night against Vanderbilt Ducas shot 1/6 from 3-point range, and yet he’s still making 50% of his shots on 7+ attempts per game, which should tell you what a crazy start this year was. He’s pretty much the perfect complementary wing player as a great shooter, good defender, adequate passer and solid rebounder.

F- Kyle Bowen, Sr. 6’8, 222: 5.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, 40.0% FG, 55.6% 3pt, 55.6% FT

Bowen has been fine as the fifth wheel in this starting lineup and doesn’t throw the ball very often. Like many of the other Gaels, he has been much better from 3-point range than inside the arc. He does the dirty work as a rebounder and shot blocker and never turns the ball over.

C- Mitchell Saxen, Jr. 6’10, 242: 12.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.3 apg, 62.1% FG, 73.7% FT

Those who follow local recruiting will remember Saxen, who was a star at Ingraham High School. Washington never seemed very interested, and they may regret it. Saxen got limited minutes playing behind Saint Mary’s star Mathias Tass, but now that Tass has moved on he has shown his talent. He is an above average shot blocker and rebounder, though he is not completely dominant at either and has a polished touch around the rim with a good post game. The Gaels will attack the Huskies on the pick and roll with Saxen as long as they are on human defense.

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the perspective

Washington obviously expected to beat Fresno State in the “semifinals” of the Wooden Legacy MTE, but it certainly puts them in for a tough Thanksgiving night challenge. Saint Mary’s is always on the verge of the top 25 and that’s where they are again this year. The Gaels are off to a 6-0 start and haven’t had any contest closer to 8 points. None of their opponents have been in the KenPom top-75 but nonetheless, they have been dominant against better teams than the Huskies.

The key for Saint Mary’s so far this year has been their defense where they have been stifling. When you’re 12th in points per game and 7th in defensive efficiency, it’s pretty obvious that you’ve been successful. The key has been an interior defense that nobody has been able to pass through. Opponents are shooting just 38.5% inside the arc, which is fifth in the country. Mitchell Saxen and Kyle Bowen aren’t elite shot-blockers, but they’re both solid in that regard.

So far, the Gaels have managed to get teams to rely on isolation and hero ball instead of working their offense. They are ranked 15th in the country with opponents receiving an assist on just 36.8% of their baskets made. For a Husky offense that had 0 assists at halftime, that certainly suggests that if Washington wants to score, he’ll come from making a lot of hard 1-on-1 shooting.

While offense hasn’t been Saint Mary’s’ forte, they definitely aren’t far behind. It was a night of offside shooting for the Gaels, who made just 3/11 shooting from the outside against Vanderbilt, but the Huskies also struggled to make 5/24. Despite that, Saint Mary’s ranks 11th in the country this year with 41.9% of their 3-point attempts. As evidenced last night, that’s untenable and is going to fall over the course of the season, but the Gaels have several lead shooters and if the Huskies give up, Saint Mary’s isn’t likely to miss very often.

This is also a ball-guarding offense, as they rank ninth in opponent steal rate, picking their pockets on just 5.1% of possessions. That doesn’t bode well for a Husky offense that will have to find ways to get transition opportunities in order to have anything resembling a good scoring day.

If there’s one thing that works in Washington’s favour, it’s that the Gaels like to play at a snail’s pace. They rank 343rd in average length of possession on offense and will keep working the ball until they find the perfect shot. Limiting overall possessions could help keep the Huskies in the game and make for some additional game-changing 3s.

Overall though, this is an extremely difficult matchup for a Washington team that has yet to establish itself on offense. If the Huskies can remain competitive, it will be by putting in a great defensive effort and making this a winner-take-all 62 game like last night. Even then, I’m not sure if the Dawgs can get to 62 points against this Gaels defense. Keion Brooks will have to appear after making just 8/27 shots since he returned from injury. Washington needs a better performance, but I’m not sure it will come today.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Prediction

washington huskies– 58, Gaels of Santa Maria – 74

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