But the Gaels cranked up the defensive pressure and held the Waves to three points from then on, as Samuel Saint-Jean and Daniel Kickert led a determined rally to improve the surprising Gaels' record to 11-8, 4-2 in the West Coast Conference.
Saint-Jean, brother of NBA and San Jose State standout Tariq Abdul-Wahad (formerly Olivier Saint-Jean), paced the Gaels with 17 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Kickert added 15 points.
The game should not be considered an upset. The Waves' record dropped a notch below the Gaels' at 11-9 overall, and at just 3-4 in conference play, the Waves have dipped below .500 in WCC action for the first time since the end of the 1997 campaign.
Freshman Alex Acker continued to be the season's biggest bright spot, scoring 22 points on a blistering 8-10 shooting, with three rebounds and four assists. Terrance Johnson added 11 points, five rebounds, and four steals, while Mike Westphal scored 12.
Boomer Brazzle had a particularly miserable night, fouling out in just eight minutes in which he only had time to score two points and grab one rebound.
Freshman Derick Grubb got the first start of his career, scoring two points, taking five rebounds, and playing a career-high 29 minutes. Grubb's propensity for foul trouble has kept him off the court a lot this season, but he is by far the Waves' biggest player at 6'10, 250 lbs, and his presence will be needed the rest of the year.
The consecutive losses take some of the luster off the Waves' long-anticipated showdown with four-time defending WCC Gonzaga this Wednesday night. Still, ESPN will be there, acknowledging the rivalry as one of the fiercest on the West Coast. The game is a rare advance sell-out, and the atmosphere of homecoming week should make for an unprecedented frenzy at the Fieldhouse. If you don't have your tickets already ... enjoy the telecast. And rest up -- the game starts at 9pm Pacific time.
In women's action at Firestone Fieldhouse, the Waves got back on the winning track against St. Mary's after Friday's upset at the hands of San Francisco. Shanell Law scored 17 points and backcourt mate Tamara McDonald 15, as the Waves raced to an early 20-4 lead and finished off the Gaels, 78-57. The Waves improve to 14-6, 6-1 WCC.