MORAGA, Calif. — No. 19 Saint Mary’s may have only been home for two of their first three conference games, but the Gaels (13-1, 3-0 WCC) made sure to put their stamp on the early conference season as 26 points and nine rebounds from Jock Landale paved the way for an 81-68 win over BYU Thursday night in McKeon Pavilion.
Tonight’s victory moves the Gaels to now 5-2 at home when hosting the Cougars.
Landale’s performance against BYU (11-5, 2-1 WCC) was the delineation of efficiency, as the Gaels’ scoring leader contributed his share in 32 minutes on a near-perfect 11-of-13 shooting. It was his matchup with Eric Mika though that pleased him the most.
“It is a lot of fun going up against someone who’s hard to guard,” the Aussie said afterwards. “So just going back and forth like that, it’s a great time going up against a talent level like that.”
Saint Mary’s opened the contest hot, connecting on five of their first six shots, including a bullet from up top by Evan Fitzner just before the game’s first media timeout to give the Gaels the early 11-9 advantage. Landale and Emmett Naar combined for 15 of the Gaels’ first 20 points and Saint Mary’s ended the half shooting 64.3 percent from the field.
The Gaels dished out a total 21 assists to counter just eight turnovers, which spoke volumes about the team’s ball movement – something head coach Randy Bennett preaches.
“We try and be a team that moves the ball,” Bennett said. “We have good shooters, we have a good low post threat so we try and not keep the ball movement stagnant; we try and move it and play unselfish.”
Saint Mary’s out-rebounded the Cougars 37-27 with 28 of those coming on the defensive glass. The Gaels also more than doubled their counterparts, 21-9 on assists, six of which belonged to Landale.
“It adds a lot more to our game,” Naar said of Landale’s distribution. “Going inside then out, and it makes it easier for me, Joe and Calvin to shoot too. Because he can score, he can set the post down, so it just gives us another look in our offense that we can read the most.”
The Gaels went on a 13-2 run in the first half kicked off by a Tanner Krebs three at the 11:14 mark. BYU enjoyed a scoring spurt of their own late in the half, but a corner three from Joe Rahon a hair under the four-minute mark gauzed the bleeding and extended the Gaels lead to 39-30.
After a brief two-game home in the comfy confines of Moraga, Saint Mary’s will hit the road for a “daunting” three games in two weeks.
“BYU here is a tough game,” said Bennett. “We were able to get through it and we had to play really well. Going to USF’s going to be a tough game so we’ll deal with the next week after that, but we’ve got a lot of work before us on Saturday.”
The Gaels will return to action against San Francisco on Saturday, Jan. 7 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 CSN Bay Area and listen in on TuneIn.
SUPPORT THE GAELS
A gift to the Gael Athletic Fund directly benefits Saint Mary's student-athletes, allowing them the opportunity to attain an education guided by our Catholic, Lasallian and Liberal Arts traditions. Click the link for more information.
FOLLOW THE GAELS
@SMCGaels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) SMC_Gaels (Snapchat)