SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — In a physical battle, seventh-seed Saint Mary’s laid it all out on the floor, but fell just short, 69-60, to the second-seed Arizona Wildcats in the Round of 32 at the NCAA Tournament Saturday night.
The Gaels (29-5) finish the historical season with the highest win percentage, and tied with the single most wins in program history. Jock Landale collected his 17th double-double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Calvin Hermanson notched 14 points in 31 minutes, while Tanner Krebs recorded another 12-point performance.
Seniors Joe Rahon and Dane Pineau played in their final games wearing the Saint Mary’s jerseys. Rahon filled the stat sheet, as the two-time All-WCC first team member finished with six points, three boards and eight assists. Pineau ends his fantastic career with five points and four rebounds before fouling-out.
Saint Mary’s shot just 24 percent from beyond the arc, but the key difference-maker was free throws. The Gaels shot just eight free throws compared to UA’s 23. Credit to Arizona as the Pac-12 champions hit 19-for-23 from the charity stripe.
The second half proved to be back-and-forth. Leading the whole first-half, SMC trailed for the first time after the opening half layup from UA. After trading buckets the next four minutes, the Wildcats would claim a three-point lead off a pair of Lauri Markkanen free throws. The Gaels would immediately tie the game, 42-42, off a Hermanson trey.
UA would go on a 7-0 run with 11:01 to go to take the 51-46 lead with 9:10 remaining. The Wildcats continued to heat up, claiming a seven-point advantage off a Trier jumper to lead 55-48.
Landale would score two-straight baskets for the Gaels, and decrease the deficit to 55-52 with 5:54 to go.
Trailing 58-52, Krebs would drain another trey with 3:55 to go in the game. The Wildcats would extend their lead to eight with 2:12 left in the battle. Hermanson would knock down another three-pointer to trim UA’s lead, 65-60, with 1:51 on the clock.
The Gaels had a great chance to creep closer after a Rahon steal. Running the fastbreak, Rahon found Krebs for the trey, but the shot fell short and the Wildcats collected their 20th and 21st free throws to seal the deal and move to the Sweet 16.
Saint Mary’s got off to a fast start in the opening moments of the game thanks in large part to Landale. The 6-11 big man scored six of the team’s first eight points as SMC led early, 8-4. The junior continued his hot start, hitting on his first five field goal attempts.
The Gaels used their size early and often, holding the advantage in total rebounds, 13-7, with 8:30 to go in the half. SMC played to its strengths, controlling the tempo and displaying razor-sharp efficiency.
Leading 14-12, the Gaels would go on an 8-0 run to force another timeout from the Wildcats. Tanner Krebs jump-started the run with a three-pointer from the top of the key. Rahon and Naar split the defenders each, scoring back-to-back layups for the 22-12 lead with 6:47 remaining in the half.
After UA crawled back within three, Krebs nailed another trey to extend the Gaels lead back to six, 29-23.
SMC shot 50 percent in the opening half (12-for-24 FG). Along with trademark efficiency, the Gaels defense stifled UA, forcing the Wildcats without a field goal for over an eight minute stretch. Arizona shot just 34 percent from the floor (10-for-29 FG), but totaled 8-for-10 from the charity stripe to trail by just one, 30-29.
Landale nearly recorded a double-double in the first half with 12 points and seven boards. It was a battle of the big men, as Arizona’s Markkanen notched nine points and eight rebounds in the opening half.
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