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Published December 12th, 2018
Saint Mary's trounces Cal in rivalry game
Saint Mary's Guard Jordan Ford takes his shot at the Dec. 1 rivalry game against Cal. Photo Tod Fierner

After a 30-year hiatus, the California basketball team deigned to make the 14-mile drive to Moraga to take on Saint Mary's Dec. 1 at McKeon Pavilion. Playing in front of a loud and highly partisan crowd, Saint Mary's defeated California 84-71, ending a four-game losing streak. It was a game that was not that close and it may be another three decades before California opts to return to Moraga.
The Gaels dominated in every aspect of the game. Saint Mary's shot 60 percent from the field, outrebounded Cal 30-24, connected on 13, 3-point shots to Cal's seven and most telling, got 33 points from their bench to only 10 for Cal. With 15 minutes to go in the game, Saint Mary's had their biggest lead 57-32.
Breaking the team's losing streak was the most satisfying aspect of the game to head coach Randy Bennett: "You get beat down by losing four games in a row. However, our guys kept believing in themselves, hanging together and trying to get better."
Guard Jordan Ford (16 points, 7 assists) saw a real difference in the team's play: "We played a lot harder. We're a young team and we're working hard every day."
Concerned with his team's defense, Bennett started Tommy Kuhse because "he's our best defensive guard." Tanner Krebs then came off the bench and scored 11 points, hitting three 3-pointers. Krebs appreciated the rivalry inherent in the game: "It's great for the Bay Area for us to play Cal. We circled this game because it was with a cross-town rival. To beat them the way we did gives us a lot of confidence."
Jordan Hunter, had a very balanced game at center, scoring 9 points, leading all rebounders with eight and had two blocks. Hunter had the play of the game when he blocked a shot and raced down the court, scoring on a lob pass while getting fouled and converting on the foul shot. Replacing Jock Lansdale has not been easy but Bennett sees improvement in Hunter's game: "Jordan is still coming on and starting to make great plays. He has really improved his concentration and focus on the court."
Two freshmen have found significant playing time so far this season - forward Dan Fotu who hit all four of his 3-point shots, scoring 16 points and center Matthias Tass with 6 points, two rebounds and two blocks. It's all taking time, says Bennett: "We're trying to get an eight-man rotation and having them comfortable in their roles. It's easy to say but hard to do, but they are gaining confidence."
Since 1909, California has won 65 of the 84 games they have played against Saint Mary's. However, since Bennett became the head coach at SMC, the Gaels have won three of their last four games against the Bears. Bennett would very much like to make the Saint Mary's-California game an annual event: "It's special to play Cal. We should play them every year whether it is at Cal or Saint Mary's. It should not be played at a neutral site. It's good for both programs and their fans."
Trey Hannula, the Director of Communications at SMC, appreciates Cal's reluctance to come to Saint Mary's: "Cal knows the environment at McKeon Pavilion and how difficult it is to play here with the fans so close to the court and how loud they are. To get them to play here once, we had to agree to play two games in Berkeley."
Fans such as Saint Mary's graduate Dick Moore took great pleasure in the game. His wife Linda and his brother-in-law, Chris Carpenter, are Cal alumni and Carpenter also played basketball for the Bears from 1961 to 1964. Says Moore: "It makes perfect sense that two Division I teams, so close to each other, should meet more often. Gonzaga and Washington, two schools that are at opposite ends of their state, play every year. I hope that this becomes an annual tradition in the Bay Area."

Dan Fotu Photo Tod Fierner

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