NCAA Tournament: Saint Mary’s faces tall task against UConn in second round

ALBANY, N.Y. — Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino issued a warning about UConn to the rest of the teams in the NCAA Tournament, but most pressing, to Saint Mary’s.

“They physically dominated us at the five spot,” Pitino said after his Iona team fell in an 87-63 drubbing to UConn in the first found on Friday night before adding, “they’ve got all the metrics to win a National Championship.”

Then, the two-time National Championship-winning coach rattled those metrics off.

The assists. The dominance on the glass. The high shooting percentage, even from three. The backups that could be starters.

Forget a Cinderella story, Saint Mary’s is going to need to have its David vs. Goliath moment in the second round of the NCAA Tournament today.

As the fifth-seeded Gaels get set to take on fourth-seeded UConn, they’re facing a blue-blood program ready to regain its national prominence; playing in a venue a couple hours from campus.

“Obviously you can’t really stop that. They have a great fan base, and it’s going to be loud in there,” Saint Mary’s guard Alex Ducas said. “We’re a very composed team, and we trust in the five guys on the court and the guys who are supporting us on the bench. We’ve just got to keep a tight-knit huddle and keep relaying the message to each other, that it’s OK.

“We’re playing a road game. We’re used to it. We’re used to not having very many fans on the road. So it’s not new to us. We’ll fight wherever it is.”

They’ll do so at MVP Arena at 6:40 p.m. with a trip to Las Vegas in the West Region and the program’s first Sweet 16 appearance since 2009-10 at stake.

And that five spot Pitino was referring to? The goliath Adama Sanogo. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound All-Big East big man for UConn dominated in the first-round matchup vs. Iona, notching a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

Along with the 7-foot-2, 265-pound freshman Donavan Clingan anchoring the Huskies, the Gaels frontcourt led by 6-10 All-West Coast Conference center Mitchell Saxen will have its hands full.

“I back my big man Mitchell Saxen all the way. I know he’s going to bring the effort every time,” Ducas said. “Obviously they have good two big men in their players, but I think we’ll be fine. We play hard. We play strong. We don’t give up. We love to fight, and we play physical. So I think it’s going to be an exciting matchup.”

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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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