MORAGA, Calif. — On the eve of the new year, the fans at McKeon Pavilion watched the first home court conference matchup as No. 19 Saint Mary’s hosted the Toreros of San Diego (7-7, 0-2 WCC). It was a hard fought battle, but dominance in the paint and off the bench helped propel the Gaels (12-1, 2-0 WCC) to their second consecutive conference win, 72-60.
The Gaels trailed by as many as seven, but after senior guard Joe Rahon buried a three-pointer with 7:26 remaining in the first half, they never again surrendered the lead.
“We’ve been practicing really well and shooting the ball well,” said forward Tanner Krebs. “We got the confidence going.”
The Gaels stormed the paint and held that advantage 32-16. Large contributions came from the their two big men -- Jock Landale and Dane Pineau -- who totaled a combined 23-points on 9-of-13 from the field along with 15 rebounds.
Saint Mary’s began their night rather flat-footed, making just one of their first six field goals. But the big men sparked some life -- Dane Pineau with a block on one end and Jock Landale with a baseline turnaround on the other to cut the deficit to three points (9-6).
Bench players played a significant role throughout the whole game. They outscored the Toreros bench 35-5, and were just two points shy of what the Saint Mary’s starters put up (37).
A pair of freshman came on in a big way. Australian forward Tanner Krebs buried every three point shot he attempted (4-for-4, 12-points) and led all first half scorers with nine points. And when a reporter questioned the likelihood of multiple bench players seeing high minutes in future games, Krebs responded:
“Well, if I keep hitting four threes then maybe [laughing]. In the end, if you go in and do your job, then you are going to play. I don’t think it necessarily matters a whole lot but it is really about what is best for the team.”
Freshman guard Jordan Ford made his first appearance just inside the three minute mark of the first half, where he quickly added a splash of his own from beyond the arc, shortly followed by a coast-to-coast layup to give the Gaels their half time lead of eight (33-23). He finished his night with 12-points on 3-of-4 shooting.
“I think Tanner had to get the rust off,” said head coach Randy Bennett. “He and Ford are freshmen and they are figuring things out. They are coming on at the right time for us.”
Four players put up double-digit points for the Toreros. Brett Bailey led that pack with 19-points. And Ty added 13 with nine rebounds. But beyond their starters, the Toreros provided virtually no offense.
Forward Calvin Hermanson was kept quiet in the first half. Scoreless with 16:35 remaining in regulation, he dribbled hard, spun to his left, drew contact, and finished off the glass with a chance to extend it to a three point play. He sunk his free throw and put the Gaels up 42-36.
Following Hermanson’s contributions, the Gaels went on a 13-5 run. During which time, smart basketball led to free shots, which led to six of the 13 coming from the charity stripe (17-of-18) and a 13-point lead extention (52-39) with just under 10 minutes to play.
Senior guard Joe Rahon had a productive 40-minutes. He contributed nine points and six rebounds. And while Kyle Clark’s stat line doesn’t turn heads, he provided critical defense that helped keep the lingering Toreros at bay.
“The deciding factor is the defense. He (Coach Bennett) always says if you play defense you will play in the game,” said Krebs.
The Gaels will play their next game at home against BYU on Thursday, Jan. 5 at 8 p.m. For tickets, visit the tickets link on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Athletic Ticket Office during weekday business hours at (925) 631-GoTx (4689). Viewers can also catch the action live on ESPNU and listen in on TuneIn.
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