MORAGA, Calif. — Extra passing and a full-game effort Thursday carried the Saint Mary’s women’s basketball team past Loyola Marymount in both team’s West Coast Conference openers, 74-59, at McKeon Pavilion.
The Gaels (6-6, 1-0 WCC) had 17 assists for the second time in three games – their second-highest mark of the year. They led by as many as 21 late in the fourth quarter to close out a dominating performance and start conference play with a victory. It was Saint Mary's sixth straight WCC opening win, a streak that started exactly five years ago with a win at LMU on Dec. 29, 2011.
“I think this is one of the most consistent games that we’ve had this season,” said Saint Mary’s head coach Paul Thomas. “I think the effort was there no matter who was in. I think we still have another gear or two in us, but I was very pleased with our consistency tonight.”
Saint Mary’s had three players in double figures led by Stella Beck’s 18 points. Carly Turner scored 12 points with three 3-pointers and Devon Brookshire poured in 11. The Gaels outrebounded LMU (5-7, 0-1 WCC) 45-31, including 18-8 on the offensive end. SMC also had 20 points off of 16 LMU turnovers.
Jackie Johnson led LMU with 16 points. Johnson entered Thursday’s game averaging a double-double for the season with 10.8 rebounds, but she was held to just five boards by SMC. She also recorded a game-high three blocks.
“I think that was such a big thing,” said Turner about the Gaels’ 15-point win. “Our preseason wasn’t as successful as we’d like it to be, so to come out and have a real strong start to the conference is exactly what we wanted. We knew we were the better team tonight so we just needed to come out and perform and do what we did, and we were happy. We were more consistent than we have been so it was nice.”
The Gaels scored at least 20 points in all but the fourth quarter. They got out to their largest lead of the game at 23 in a 20-8 third period. SMC shot 50 percent (9 for 18) and held the Lions to just 18.8 percent (3 for 16) in the third.
Saint Mary’s next travels to San Diego on Saturday. The Toreros were 82-67 losers to San Francisco at home Thursday. The game will be broadcast live on the Gaels’ “GaelVision” Gameday Central page.
“I’m curious to see, because we have not done this,” said Thomas about the single game road trip. “This is a new thing for the West Coast Conference, and so I’m curious to see how we react and respond to these one-game trips. I think they’ll be ready. I don’t think our team is afraid of being on the road so hopefully it’s a good thing.
“It’ll be fun,” said Turner. “USD, we’re super excited to play them. We always have a really good battle with them. I think momentum won’t be a problem. As long as we keep our consistency up, we’ll be good.”
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