Ostensibly to pump itself up during its matchup Friday night versus Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara's men's basketball team wore a warm up shirt emblazoned with the recent big-font Nike slogan, "Rise To The Occasion." The Broncos could not have stooped any lower. Saturday night, Saint Mary's rolled out of the Orleans Arena locker room in the same duds in advance of its matchup against San Diego, which is German for "a whale of an over-achiever."
It appeared the shirt choice had backfired on Saint Mary's, too. Seemingly always a step behind the blazing Johnny Dee and finely-coiffed Chris Anderson, the Gaels trailed by single digits until the five-minute mark of the second half when all-everything Matthew Dellavedova forced his way to the line and sank two go-ahead free throws to make the score 51-50. And then the two teams traded leads. And then, on a thus-far 1-of-9 night from the floor, Matthew Dellavedova hit a type of shot this fan community is particularly familiar with - a back corner pass-to-you-and-pass-back-to-me Dellavedagger - with seconds remaining to tie the game back up again at 62.
It was around this time that San Diego, having over-achieved in the league tournament, and gunning for a .500 record and a chance to recreate its 2008 WCC Tournament Final matchup with Gonzaga, experienced complete renal failure. Defensive possessions in the ensuing overtime period were flat-footed, and offensive possessions looked directionless, a mixture of tired and stunned. A hungry Saint Mary's team lead by a rabid 43-minutes-a-night senior point guard and an immune Brad Waldow simply wanted the win more. This is a vague and trite way to explain an overtime win, but it is also unfortunately accurate, and therefore bears mention.
Speaking of Waldow, hilarity ensued late in the second half when Waldow - who much less hilariously and much more notably kept Saint Mary's in the game with 23 points and 16 rebounds - lost a tooth via an inadvertent San Diego elbow to the face. This in itself was not hilarious at all. In fact, it appeared both painful and aesthetically unfortunate. Between sequences, however, Waldow located his tooth on the court, picked up his tooth, plodded over to his team's bench and attempted to donate said tooth to head coach Randy Bennett, who, perhaps not wanting to accept any gifts from players in the wake of recent NCAA sanctions, emphatically declined the offer in disgust. Waldow then lost all interest in the tooth, and threw it on the ground. The expanse of bleeding in Waldow's face was then fortified with a type of clear gauze, which ESPN commentator Dave Flemming mistook for a borrowed mouthguard of Dellavedova's. It is unclear whether the tooth was recovered, but it is clear that he doesn't look like this any more.
The Gaels' staff is currently searching for a 24-hour dentist in Las Vegas, which sounds like the plot of The Hangover, Part 3.
The most predictable conference tournament final matchup in all of college basketball is set for Monday night at 6pm PST/7pm MST on ESPN. Expect a relatively tight game, perhaps with Gonzaga pulling away late. A close game Monday night all but ensures that Saint Mary's makes the NCAA Tournament. Anything less than a blow out by the Zags will feed the Gonzaga's-overrated mantra even further.