LAS VEGAS — In the third meeting of the season, and arguably the biggest yet, No. 19 Saint Mary’s (28-3) took care of business with another emphatic victory over No. 3 seed BYU (22-11), 81-50, to advance to tomorrow night’s WCC Championship game versus conference rival Gonzaga.
SMC led the entire game, 38:08 to be exact as the Gaels completed the wire-to-wire finish.
The first meeting in the conference tournament between the two teams, the night was one to forget for BYU, as the defeat is the first time since 2005 the Cougars lost by at least 30 points. The 50 point total is also the fewest scored since the Gaels defeated the Cougars 70-57 back in February of 2017 and 2013.
Jock Landale collected his 15th double-double of the season with a 22 point, 10 rebound performance. The big man was perfect from the stripe (6-for-6) and nearly flawless from the floor (8-for-12 FG).
Emmett Naar was once again the orchestrator of the offense, as the junior notched his second double-double of the season with 12 points and his second straight game with 11 assists. Naar committed just two turnovers in the game, as SMC took care of the ball during the game.
The Gaels shot 56 percent for the game (29-for-52 FG) and collected 35 total rebounds. With the offense firing on all cylinders, SMC notched 21 assists compared to just five for BYU.
Defense continued to play lights out, limiting BYU to just 32 percent shooting (19-for-60 FG) and a mere 24 percent from three-point land.
Up next is the Gaels second-straight appearance in the West Coast Conference Championship final. SMC will play in its 10th finals game and will face No. 1 seed Gonzaga (31-1) for a 6 p.m. tipoff on ESPN and WatchESPN. The final can also be listened to live on Saint Mary’s IMG Sports Network on TuneIn radio.
The Gaels scored the first five points of the second half off a Dane Pineau hook shot and another trey by Hermanson for the 41-20 lead at the 18:35 mark.
The run would continue to grow as the lead would balloon to 32 at the 11:49 mark in the half. The Gaels would hit 11 straight field-goals in the second half, extending the lead to as much as 35 with 7:50 to go.
SMC would shoot 70.8 percent in the half, and a blistering hot 61.5 percent (8-for-13) from three-point land.
Defense was even more impressive, as the Gaels forced the league’s second-highest scoring offense to shoot 39 percent in the second half.
Eric Mika was held in check, as the All-WCC First Team member was held to 10 points (5-for-13 FG) and just seven rebounds. TJ Haws led the inefficient Cougars attack with 13 points in 32 minutes.
In the early moments of the game, SMC went out to an early 6-2 lead as Landale recorded all six points for the Gaels. The conference’s best defense stifled the Cougars attack early, forcing BYU to just 1-of-11 to open the first 7:12 of the match.
Leading 12-2 thanks to back-to-back three-pointers from Naar, the Gaels didn’t allow another BYU field-goal until the 12:48 mark.
After a 6-0 run by BYU trimmed the lead to 25-16, the Gaels answered with their own mini-run highlighted by six more points by Landale. Hermanson would notch his second trey of the half, and after a high arching layup by Joe Rahon, the Gaels took a 36-20 advantage into the locker rooms.
BYU, who shot a poor 25 percent (8-for-32 FG) in the first half and suffered its largest deficit in the half (16) since Gonzaga led by 16 in February. The Gaels defense pressured BYU to just 2-for-11 from beyond the arc and six turnovers.
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