MORAGA, Calif. -- A slow start gave the Saint Mary's men's basketball team brief pause but once the Gaels got rolling, they never stopped in defeating Alcorn State 72-55 at McKeon Pavilion.
With the win, Saint Mary's stays unbeaten on the young season at 5-0. It is the first time the Gaels have started 5-0 since the 2010-11 season, when they began the year 6-0. It is also the third time in the last 10 seasons Saint Mary's has gone unbeaten in its first five games.
Kerry Carter led Saint Mary's with a career-high 15 points off the bench, going 3 for 5 from 3-point range on the night. Stephen Holt added 12 points and Brad Waldow scored 11 to round out the Gaels in double figures. Octavius Brown led Alcorn State with 16.
From a team standpoint, Saint Mary's outrebounded Alcorn State 49-23. Forward Garrett Jackson led the charge on the glass with 12 rebounds.
"We've got to get better. We still can't play 40 minutes consistent. We just do things that good teams don't do," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "We had some moments where we played well tonight but we gave up two transition layups with six or seven minutes to go and we can't do those things."
After building a small 6-4 advantage right off the bat, Saint Mary's dealt with a patch of rough play as the Gaels watched their counterparts from Lorman, Miss. take the lead using a variety of acrobatic shots and contested chances.
That hot early shooting from the Braves resulted in a near-seven minute stretch where the Gaels had to play catch-up. Alcorn State (3-2) never pushed the lead past seven, but nonetheless kept itself on the positive side of the ledger as Saint Mary's tried to wake up its offense.
Soon, the Gaels caught fire, re-taking the lead when a 3-pointer by Holt made it 21-20 with 10:12 left in the half. That bucket served as only one part of an offensive barrage by the Gaels, coming as part of a 21-4 run that would establish Saint Mary's as the aggressor for the rest of the game.
The biggest cheers were saved for later in the run, as back to back 3-pointers by Walker pushed the lead to 35-24 with 4:37 left. Jackson capped the streak with a transition layup, and with 4:20 left to play before halftime, the lead stood at 13.
"We knew they were going to come out with a strong punch," Carter said. "So it was just trying to withstand that, keep going and just try to pop them."
Carter's 3-pointer just before the buzzer sounded made it 42-28 Saint Mary's going into the locker room, giving the Gaels their highest-scoring first half of the season and putting the momentum squarely in SMC's corner for the rest of the night.
The massive first half run wasn't the only big move Saint Mary's put on the Braves, as the Gaels came out of the halftime break with a 10-0 run to put their counterparts away. Back to back 3-pointers by Carter made it 52-28 and brought the crowd to its feet once again.
Alcorn State wouldn't score a point for the first 7 minutes, 15 seconds of the second half, but did put together an 9-0 run midway through the half to pull to within 15 at 59-44. The Gaels turned that momentum back around quickly though, as a layup by Waldow, two free throws by Carter and a tip-in by Giusti re-established SMC's big lead.
Saint Mary's returns to the court Saturday when it hosts Murray State in a return engagement from an ESPN BracketBusters matchup two years ago. Saturday's game is set for a 7 p.m. tip, and tickets can be purchased by clicking the Tickets link on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx.