By: Alex Crook
SMC Athletic Communications
MORAGA, Calif. — What began as another back and forth edition of the Bay Area rivalry with San Francisco in time turned into a rout, as No. 21 Saint Mary’s (18-2, 8-1 WCC) pulled away in the second half to complete the 66-46 season sweep over the Dons behind 18 points from Calvin Hermanson.
Hot-handed Hermanson played as big a role as his 6-foot-6, 200 lb. frame, but the Lake Oswego native wasn’t the sole reason for the Gaels’ 18th win of the season.
“We put a lot of work into trying to get better at extending our leads,” Hermanson said. “Once we came out in the second half with a lot of energy, we played good defense.”
Thursday night started out even as the two teams’ previous meeting on the Hilltop a few weeks ago. Both sides started slow with a 10-10 score at the game’s second media timeout. In the spirit of Australia Day, Emmett Naar and Jock Landale accounted for eight of those 10, including an emphatic Landale dunk that gave Saint Mary’s a 10-8 lead.
The 30-30 halftime score included equal marks for both squads in points in the paint (16) and defensive rebounds (10), but Saint Mary’s finished the first half with eight assists on 12 made baskets to San Francisco’s four on 13 baskets.
USF (14-8, 4-5 WCC) and Saint Mary’s teeter tottered with the lead in the first 20 minutes, but the Gaels took charge late with an 8-0 run capped by one of Hermanson’s four threes that put Saint Mary’s up 27-25 at the 2:48 mark.
If the first half was up for grabs, the second half definitively belonged to the Gaels. Saint Mary’s opened on an 18-4 run as a Hermanson layup following two Naar free throws for a USF technical foul gave the Gaels a 48-34 lead, their largest margin up to that point. Naar finished the night as one of three Gaels in double figures with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
The Dons, led by former Gaels assistant Kyle Smith, were paced by 13 points from Charles Minlend, but it wasn’t enough to stop the predominantly-second half bleeding from Saint Mary’s.
While the Gaels’ second half run grew to 26-6, they also held USF in that time to two of their last nine field goal attempts. After shooting 52 percent in the first half, the Dons finished at 42 percent overall and 22 percent from behind the arc.
“(We had) a bit more energy on defense,” Naar said of the Gaels’ second half play. “Dane specifically was ridiculous tonight, getting hands on a lot of loose balls. He was that spark for us and we took it from there.”
Saint Mary’s tallied 18 assists on 27 total made baskets, adding to their reputation as one of the most unselfish teams in the country.
The Gaels will now hit the road to face their other Bay Area rival in Santa Clara on Saturday, Jan. 28th 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 the TuneIn app.
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