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#17 Zags WBB Host St. Mary’s Tonight

The Gaels stroll into town for the weekend afternoon matchup

The Women have returned home from Los Angeles and will take on the Gaels today at 5pm EST in a matchup that will be streamed on ESPN+ and shown locally on SWX. I know that I haven’t posted an update on the LMU matchup, but I promise this will get done as soon as possible.

The 22-23’ season was fairly tumultuous for the Gaels as longstanding coach Paul Thomas was placed on administrative leave before his ultimate firing after an internal investigation that produced unclear results and the team was unable to continue their winning ways as they finished 13-18 (6-12).

Heading into this season, former Long Beach State coach Jeff Cameron was brought in to steer the ship and St. Mary’s was predicted to finish 6th in the conference while boasting an All-WCC Preseason Team selection in senior forward Ali Baumburger. I covered the Gaels’ non-conference performance earlier not too long ago here so check that out for some review of their performance thus far.

As it stands, St. Mary’s sits at 1-2 in WCC play and have yet to play a road game thus far so today’s game represents their first time leaving the East Bay since before Christmas. They lost their first game to Pacific (57-60), defeated USD (67-59), and fell short to LMU (48-66).

In those games, the team has shot 43% overall, 36% from three, and 64% from the charity stripe while allowing their opponents to shoot 43% overall, 38% from three, and 69% from the charity stripe. Their pace has picked up some compared to the non-conference slate, but they still rank last within the WCC with a 64.9 ranking. For context, the next slowest team is LMU with 67.5 while the Bulldogs slot in with a 68.4 pace rating. As such, the Gaels average the fewest amount of field goals per game with just 51.5 across this season while allowing just 54.1 shots per game (48th nationally) to their opponents.

Despite running at a snail’s pace and not shooting the ball often, St. Mary’s ranks 8th in the WCC with 60.2 points per game that’s carried by their 50% efficiency from two point range on the season. Of their regular starters, the lowest two point shooting mark comes from guard Hannah Rapp at 47%, which ranks better than Brynna Maxwell’s 46% and Kaylynne Truong’s 45%.

That being said, St. Mary’s looks to have a turnover issue as they’ve committed 16 per game across the season and 19 per game in their three WCC games. Those numbers aren’t particularly terrible when looking at the national ranking, but when put into the context of their slow pace and low number of possessions per game, their turnover percentage cannot be pretty. In the non-conference slate, the team was posting a turnover rate of nearly 21% and with their play in conference, that number has likely worsened. I haven’t watched this team play so I can’t tell when/where they’re making these turnovers, but I have to assume some must come from shot clock violations.

When looking at their three previous WCC games, I’m kind of confused as to what Jeff Cameron’s doing with his starting lineup as Ali Baumberger hasn’t started, yet she’s played 20+ minutes in those games, and some starters haven’t even played 15 minutes across an entire matchup. Given the paucity of information around injuries in NCAAW, it’s possible that has been an issue, but their boxscores in WCC play leave me scratching my head. That being said, expect the Gaels to run an 8-9 man rotation that features a pretty balanced attack with pretty much everyone capable of stepping back and shooting from three.

As for Gonzaga, after shooting just under 29% from three, I’ll be looking for the Bulldogs to connect a little better from range this game. Kayleigh Truong in particular had a rough game on Thursday by shooting 1-6 from three. Another point of improvement has to be limiting turnovers as the Zags committed 16 against LMU which registered as a 20% turnover rate. While the Gaels have their own turnover problems, they have forced their WCC opponents into 20, 16, and 20 turnovers thus far which they were able to convert into 18, 9, and 19 points respectively. For a team with such dreadful pace, if Gonzaga can cut down their mistakes, it might be impossible for the Gaels to seal an upset victory.

Be sure to check the game out today as, unlike on Thursday, the Men and Women’s team aren’t playing at the same time. Let me know your thoughts below as the game plays out!