Friday, December 30, 2016

No. 19 Saint Mary's 72, Loyola Marymount 60: Gaels rally after slow start in their WCC opener

                               Photo Credit: Associated Press

By: Devin Larkins
Twitter: @MotownApe

The No. 19 Saint Mary’s Gaels (11-1,1-0 West Coast Conference) extended their winning streak to five games going tonight beating the Loyola Marymount University Lions 72-60, in a contest where both teams played not totally up to par to start WCC play.

Saint Mary’s started the night a tad sluggish letting LMU (7-5, 0-1 WCC) play aggressive and dictate the pace. Yet, with the play from Gaels center Jock Landale and guard Emmett Naar, they held off from what would have been a major setback to begin the conference season.

From what history showed in the last meeting between these two teams, LMU hangs tough, but the patience and presence of the Gaels overthrows them.

In the teams' last meeting in the 2015-16 WCC semifinal, Saint Mary's let LMU hang around and then flipped a switch to power its way to a 60-48 win. 

Naar led the team in scoring tonight with 19 points. Albeit a quiet 18 points knocking shots down through the game while shooting 6-of-9 from the field but in addition to icing 5-of-6 free throws.

Game Recap:

From the beginning, LMU would be aggressive on defense, yet for every run Saint Mary’s countered with its paint presence led by Landale's 18 points, on 6-of-10 from the field, on 6-of-10 from the field and a game-high 11 rebounds.

The Gaels began to force their way on the Lions. Every time the Lions would try to get out and run the Gaels would slow them down and dump the ball into the big man Landale. Things were not all great for the Gaels as they managed to turn the ball over 19 times throughout the game.

Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett knows the process is still in progress, despite the strong start to the season.

"The [Gaels] played well in some areas and bad in others-- But, we will take the win," Bennett said.

The 19 turnovers were forced by a very resilient defense by the Lions and coach Mike Dunlap took solace in the solid play and how he emphasizes that in recruiting.

“One, it is in their DNA. Let’s give them full credit," Dunlap said. "Two, we like to play up the floor, that is part of our recruitment. We try to get guys who can play in space.”

Midway through the second half, Trevor Manuel, who finished with a team-high 18 points for LMU, made a great play and jumped in front of the driving Gaels player to take a charge. This gave the Lions a massive momentum boost and it appeared as if they would make a charge to pulling an upset of the Gaels.

Yet again, their momentum was ended by the big and little combination of Londale and Naar as the Gaels held off the Lions in the first of many road tests in conference play.

Looking Ahead:

Both teams return to action on New Year's Eve as Saint Mary's heads down Interstate 5 for a home meeting with the San Diego Toreros on New Year's Eve, while Loyola Marymount hosts BYU.

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