MORAGA, Calif. — Thursday night, No. 23 Saint Mary’s hosted Pacific (8-12, 2-5 WCC) in a match that saw multiple unanswered runs for both sides. But in the end, the Gaels (16-2, 6-1 WCC) prevailed 62-50, and remain undefeated in home-court conference play.
For roughly ten minutes, the fans at McKeon Pavilion adjusted their seated position amidst an uncomfortable push. The Gaels lead extended as high as 19 before dropping to five. But dominant ball movement — where 19 assists met 23 field goals — kept the home team ahead for the entirety.
“That’s how we like to play,” said junior forward Calvin Hermaonson. “We know we’re a very unselfish team and just try to find the open man every time.”
Hermanson provided an offensive spark — including seven of the Gaels first 11 second-half points. Hermanson led all scorers with 17 on 5-for-12 from the field in 32 minutes of play.
“We can’t relax when we go up big early,” said Hermanson on allowing the Tigers to close the gap. “We did a good job in the second half coming out right away and putting another run together.”
Saint Mary’s turned up the heat by way of a 10-0 run with just over 10 minutes remaining in regulation. Included in the mix was back-to-back buckets from three-point land for Hermanson and freshman forward Tanner Krebs.
Big man Jock Landale fought to establish his position down low, and offensive rebounds (4) led to advancement opportunities. When a glimmer of space was left open in the lane (10:08), Joe Rahon perfectly lobbed one into the hands of an elevating Landale for one of two alley-oop layups.
Landale notched his seventh double-double of the season with 10-points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Joe Rahon chipped in nine points and nine assists, and Tanner Krebs contributed nine points off the bench, all three-pointers (3-for-7).
“We won against a team that’s good, experienced, and physical, who plays good defense — I felt good about that,” says head coach Randy Bennett. “But we were inconsistent in areas in both halves."
Four Tigers finished in double digits. Leading the pack was senior guard T.J Wallace — their leading scorer on the season — with 13-points on 6-for-12 shooting. Closely behind was junior forward Jacob Lampkin with 11-points and five rebounds
The Gaels opened up the prime time game on fire. An 11-3 start saw three-pointers from Joe Rahon, Evan Fitzner and Calvin Hermanson. Rahon and Hermanson went on to tally another one each before the first half concluded. The team totaled 13 from three-point land.
The Tigers bounced back with a few of their own in the early portion of the bout. But with their opponent still in single digits, the Gaels initiated a 10-0 run to extend their lead to 26-9 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
And then momentum shifted at the six-minute mark when Pacific dished out a 12-0 run of their own, cutting the deficit to single digits, 30-23. A behind the arc bucket from Rahon ended the run and the teams headed to the locker room with the score 33-25.
“They made it tough for us to score, mixing defenses and making it hard on Jock,” said Bennett on the brief struggles. “They gave us some looks and it took some time for us to break it down.”
The ball control was supreme for the Gaels, who hold the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the conference (1.57). They committed just seven turnovers on the night, two of which came in the last two minutes of regulation. Rebound total ended in favor of the Gaels (30-23). Entering Thursday night, Saint Mary’s owned a 10.6 rebound margin – another conference best.
“Our guys do a good job sharing the ball” said Bennett. “That’s why our assist to turnover ratio is what it is. I’m pleased that we took care of the ball.”
The Gaels will play their next game at home against Pepperdine on Saturday, Jan. 21st at 8 p.m. The contest will also air live on CSN Bay Area. 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 through Gael Vision and on the TuneIn app.
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