Gonzaga key matchup: Saint Mary's didn't have to look far for top scorer Aidan Mahaney
Feb. 3—MORAGA, Calif. — Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett has spanned the globe in recruiting and developed a fertile pipeline of players from Australia.
Bennett has brought in talented transfers, including Spokane-born guard Logan Johnson, who played his freshman season at Cincinnati before joining the Gaels.
But the best recruit on his West Coast Conference-leading Gaels only required a short drive to Campolindo High School, roughly two miles from Bennett's office at Saint Mary's.
There, Bennett kept a close eye on his son Cade, now an SMC freshman guard, and Cade's backcourt running mate Aidan Mahaney, now a standout freshman and the Gaels' top scorer.
"This is an older group now," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "The two Aussies (Kyle Bowen and Alex Ducas) have been with him (Bennett). The point guard is from right down the road and played with (Bennett's) son. Mahaney's had an awesome, awesome year."
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Mahaney, who scored 25 points in his collegiate debut against Oral Roberts in the season opener, came off the bench for the first month of the season.
He moved into the starting lineup Dec. 7 against Missouri State and he's scored in double figures in 14 of the past 15 games, including four games with at least 20 points and a winning fadeaway jumper against BYU in Provo, Utah.
Mahaney is fifth on the team in minutes (29.3 per game), but he's emerged as the top scorer (14.8 points) in a balanced attack with four players averaging double digits. Mahaney's 56 3-pointers rank second on the team and his 43.4% accuracy is higher than his 38% as a high school senior .
Mahaney is a quality perimeter shooter, but he's also effective off dribble penetration into the paint.
Gonzaga has had some success defending WCC guards with similar skill sets, including Santa Clara's Brandin Podziemski (14 points on 4-of-14 shooting from the field in GU's 88-70 win Thursday) and San Francisco's Khalil Shabazz.
The Zags figure to go with Rasir Bolton or perhaps Nolan Hickman as the initial defender on Mahaney, but they often switch on screens, so the Gaels' guard will likely see a variety of defenders. Other options include Malachi Smith, Hunter Sallis and possibly forward Anton Watson, who did a nice job when he lined up against Podziemski.