By: Ryan Moran
SMC Athletic Communications
MORAGA, Calif. — The Sweet Caroline sing-along bounced off the walls of McKeon Pavilion with an amplified bite on Saturday night. Watching a beloved senior set a season best will do that as the Gaels (17-2, 7-1 WCC) put away the Pepperdine Waves, 85-65.
Twelve minutes into the game, Joe Rahon matched his season high with 14 points. He directly contributed on 10 of the 19 first half field goals. Rahon ended going 9-for-13 from the field (22 points), remained perfect from three-point land, and added five assists and two steals. Junior big man Jock Landale recorded his eighth double-double this season with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Pepperdine (5-15, 1-7 WCC) handed the Gaels two of their three conference losses during the regular season last year. Saint Mary’s made sure there was no chance for repeat.
“It’s something we talked about,” said Rahon on the recent history. “We were 20-1 at home last year and these are the guys that got us. We take a lot of pride in protecting our home court.
Rahon and junior forward Calvin Hermanson owned the bottom of the net. By the end of the first half they had a combined 32 points. The Waves had 33 total.
Collectively they were a force and individually they commanded the floor with vivid confidence. The confidence blanketed the gym and was absorbed by the majority. The Saint Mary’s band had distinct pop, the usual cheers from the northwest corner came in with a particularly commanding roar and those who weren’t breaking for the door stood with clapping hands while the Gaels exited.
“It’s kind of whoever is open shoots and tonight I was the open guy — Calvin was, too,” said Rahon. “That’s what makes us good offensively is were unselfish and don’t care who gets the credit.”
There was a healthy exchange to start the second half, but the lead for the Gaels was substantial and they refused to let up. With twelve minutes remaining they applied significant pressure with a 11-3 run that saw a two hand jam from sophomore forward Evan Fitzner.
The lead reached as high as 21 before the Waves sunk five unanswered baskets during a span of 4 minutes and 48 seconds. It was a glimmer of life that had been dormant for some time. Senior Lamond Murray Jr. contributed seven of his 27 points on that run.
“He’s (Murray Jr.) really good,” said head coach Randy Bennett. “It’s fun to see other guys on other teams make the improvement that he has.”
Murray Jr. led all scorers for the night and was trailed by the Waves senior guard Jeremy Major, who chipped in 17 on 7-for-15 from the field.
To no surprise, it was Rahon who put an end to the run by drawing a foul. The very next drive, junior guard Emmett Naar buried a three and the Waves’ hope was pushed out of the doors by the chant of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.”
Early on the exchange was fairly even. But with 12:25 to go in the first half, the Gaels went on a 10-2 run — seven of which came from Rahon. The Waves were able to answer back with an identical run just minutes later, closing the gap 29-27 with 4:58 remaining.
“We try to stay calm and keep our composure,” said Rahon on the importance of stopping a run. “That’s where playing together all last year helps.”
But it wasn’t sustainable. Saint Mary’s finished off the remaining five minutes on an 18-5 run with major contributions from a flawless Hermanson. Hermanson trotted down the tunnel at halftime with his team up 47-33 having just displayed a perfect 6-for-6 from the field and 3-for-3 from three-point land.
And when the final buzzer sounded he had 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting.
Hermanson missed his first basket early in the second half, but was picked up by a hustling Dane Pineau who fought for the offensive rebound and put it up for two. The senior center contributed 10 points on a perfect 5-for-5 from the field, and added six rebounds.
Saint Mary’s shot 56.9 percent on the night and nearly doubled the Waves’ rebound total (38-to-22). The Waves were held to just one field goal during the final 4:58.
“We respected them (Waves) because they got us three times in the last three years,” said Bennet. “Not many teams have, they have. No chance we were looking by them.”
The Gaels will play their next game at home against San Francisco on Thursday, Jan. 26th 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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