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USIU, Shooting 32.9%, Can’t Stop St. Mary’s

After watching his U.S. International University men’s basketball team fire blanks most of the night against St. Mary’s, Coach Gary Zarecky was ready to take a few shots himself Wednesday.

“You can’t play Division I basketball when you go 2 for 8 during a crucial game,” Zarecky said after St. Mary’s beat USIU, 80-63, at Golden Hall. “St. Mary’s defense had nothing to do with (our poor shooting). Not when you’re wide open and no one’s around.

“I’m not talking about a turnaround with a hand in your face. I’m talking about wide open shoots. You’ve got to have more heart than we do right now.”

In a season of poor shooting, the Gulls (6-10) had one of their worst outings yet--and still were able to stay close to St. Mary’s (10-1) most of the game.

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With the game tied, 26-26, with 4:10 left in the first half, St. Mary’s outscored the Gulls, 14-4, to take a 40-30 halftime lead. USIU came back in the second half and trailed by just 6 points, 50-44, with 12:50 to go and was within 68-59 with 3:40 remaining.

USIU, however, shot itself out of contention down the stretch. The Gulls shot just 32.9% from the field, including a dismal 1 for 18 from 3-point range.

USIU was shooting 39% from the field for the season and needed to break out of that slump against a St. Mary’s team that starts five seniors and has one of the best defenses in the nation, allowing less than 58 points a game.

Paul Wilson was the only USIU player to cause any real damage offensively. Wilson scored 22 points on 9 of 19 shooting, mostly on drives inside, and added 11 rebounds. Guard Gary Williams had 17 points, but he was 4 of 18 from the field.

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St. Mary’s, meanwhile, displayed the patience and confidence of an all-senior starting lineup. Four players scored in double figures, led by Robert Haugen’s 17. Erick Newman added 16 points and 8 rebounds for the Gaels.

Still, the game was an improvement for USIU, considering the fact St. Mary’s beat the Gulls, 98-67 in Moraga on Dec. 6. St. Mary’s outscored USIU, 21-2, to start that game. This time, USIU took the quick lead at 14-6, about 7 minutes into the game.

USIU pulled to within 68-59 on a drive inside by Williams, but the Gulls could get no closer and St. Mary’s outscored them, 12-4, including 6 of 7 from the line in the closing minutes.

“I’m an offensive coach and I don’t take the gun out of their hands,” Zarecky said. “I don’t pull a guy for missing shots; I encourage them to keep shooting. I don’t know what it is, (we’re) a much better team than that.”

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