Landale leads No. 22 Saint Mary's past Loyola Marymount
(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
By MICHAEL WAGAMAN
MORAGA, Calif. (AP) For one of the few times this season, Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett had trouble finding anything wrong with how his team played.
On a night when the Gaels had one of their best offensive nights of the season and got big contributions off the bench, there was no need to nitpick.
Jock Landale had 16 points and 11 rebounds and No. 22 Saint Mary's beat Loyola Marymount 81-48 on Thursday night.
Evan Fitzner had a season-high 13 points - all in the first half - and Calvin Hermanson added 11 to help the Gaels (23-3, 13-2 West Coast Conference) to their eighth win in nine games.
"I didn't see that game going that way," Bennett said. "We were able to separate early and we needed that. We played pretty well tonight . one of our most balanced games we've had as far as playing well on both sides of the ball."
Playing for the first time since losing to No. 1 Gonzaga last week, Saint Mary's showed no lingering effects and led by as many as 38 points while extending its winning streak to 11 straight against Loyola Marymount.
Landale provided the bulk of the offense with his 12th double-double of the season on 6-of-7 shooting. The 6-foot-11-inch Aussie played only 22 minutes when Bennett went to his bench.
Unlike many games this season, the Gaels provided their big man with plenty of offensive support. Fitzner, who played just 2 minutes against the Lions when the teams played in December, and Hermanson made three 3-pointers each.
"That's a result of good offense and good teamwork," Landale said. "Our bench is great. We always know they can score and tonight they just kind of showed that off a little bit."
Brandon Brown scored 10 points for Loyola Marymount. The Lions (12-14, 5-10) have lost 22 of their last 23 against the Gaels.
The win assures Saint Mary's of finishing no worse than tied for second in the WCC. The Gaels can clinch the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament with a win over BYU on Saturday.
FITZNER FINDS MINUTES
Fitzner has started 61 consecutive games for Saint Mary's, but the Gaels sophomore has found minutes hard to come by over the past two months. That changed when Fitzner got off to a fast start against Loyola Marymount. He made two early 3-pointers, teamed with Landale and Tanner Krebs for all of the scoring during a 17-2 run, then made another shot beyond the arc with 51 seconds left to help push Saint Mary's halftime lead to 46-25. "I just want to play my role and do whatever I can to help the team win," Fitzner said. "But obviously it feels good when your teammates give you the ball and you make some open shots."
Loyola Marymount: A mismatch in just about every way. The Lions shot just 38 percent, were outrebounded 37-19 and had only one player in double figures. They also went more than 10 minutes without a field goal in the second half.
Saint Mary's: Save for a little sloppy patch near the end of the first half, this was a crisp game offensively for the Gaels. The key was getting steady scoring from someone other than Landale, and Fitzner provided just that to keep the Lions from collapsing the interior. .. Joe Rahon had five rebounds and seven assists.
The Gaels dropped two spots in the latest poll following their loss to No. 1 Gonzaga last week. The win over the Lions won't garner much support, but with No. 20 Creighton and No. 21 South Carolina losing earlier in the week, the door is open for Saint Mary's to climb back into the top 20.
Loyola Marymount: The Lions return home to host Pepperdine on Saturday.
Saint Mary's: Travels to BYU on Saturday night.
More AP college basketball: www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25
Updated February 17, 2017