Once an annual date on the local men’s basketball calendar, Cal and Saint Mary’s College will face off Saturday for the first time in 11 seasons.
Will it happen again anytime soon?
Don’t count on it. The Gaels’ visit to Haas Pavilion for a 12:30 p.m. tipoff was arranged as a one-time matchup because it conveniently filled a need for both programs.
“We had several teams that kind of backed out. We definitely needed a home game,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said of the Bears’ nonconference schedule. “It worked on both ends. It’s great for us.”
“It made sense for both teams,” agreed Gaels coach Randy Bennett. “It was a year we needed an away game.”
This won’t be a walkover for the Bears (7-2), who are coming off a difficult 74-62 win over Incarnate Word, a program in its third year transitioning to Division I.
“We know they’re a great team,” Cal freshman forward Ivan Rabb said of the Gaels.
Included in Saint Mary’s 6-0 recrod was a 17-point win over Stanford on Nov. 22.
The Gaels are playing both local Pac-12 schools in the same season for the first time since 1986. With a win over the Bears, they would complete their first sweep of Cal and Stanford since 1942.
So this is a big deal for Saint Mary’s.
The Gaels have beaten the past three Pac-12 teams that ventured into McKeon Pavilion, and won three of the four games vs. Cal played since 1988.