Ford leads No. 22 Saint Mary's past Pepperdine, 75-61
(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
By ERIC GILMORE
MORAGA, Calif. (AP) The first two shots Saint Mary's guard Jordan Ford took were from 3-point range, and both hit their mark.
Ford had a feeling he was in for a big game.
Ford had 18 points and a career-high 10 rebounds, and No. 22 Saint Mary's rolled to a 75-61 victory over Pepperdine on Thursday night.
Ford shot 7 for 11 from the field and 4 for 6 from 3-point range, falling two points short of tying his career scoring high.
"I came out and hit my first couple shots and from there it just kept rolling," Ford said. "So I felt really good."
Saint Mary's remained one game behind Gonzaga (26-4, 16-1), a 77-72 winner at San Diego, in the WCC with one regular-season game to play. The Gaels can earn a share of the WCC regular-season title with a victory at home against Santa Clara and a Gonzaga loss at BYU on Saturday.
Saint Mary's point guard Emmett Naar, who injured his left ankle late in the first half against Portland on Saturday, started and had three points and six assists in 14 minutes, most of those in the first half.
"I think he'll keep getting better," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said of Naar, the Gaels' career leader in assists. "He didn't aggravate it. I thought it was an overall very positive step. I was surprised he played."
Trae Berhow and Knox Hellums each scored 13 points for Pepperdine (4-25, 1-16), which lost to Saint Mary's for the fifth straight time.
"Saint Mary's did a great job of punching it inside, especially early, and then made us pay with our rotations," Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson said. "Our rotations were delayed or slow, and that allowed them to get into a rhythm and shoot their 3s."
Ford had 14 points and six rebounds in the first half, when Saint Mary's built a 46-26 lead.
"Tough to stop him when he's shooting like that," Hermanson said. "It's pretty special when you got a guy like that on the team who can really shoot it."
Pepperdine guard Eric Cooper Jr., who averages 13.2 points, did not make the trip because of a shoulder injury. Udenyi Amadi started in his place.
Pepperdine: The Waves lost their eighth straight game and are locked into sole possession of last place in the WCC. Pepperdine will be the No. 10 seed in the upcoming conference tournament.
Saint Mary's: The Gaels won their second straight after losing back-to-back games to Gonzaga on Feb. 10 and San Francisco on Feb. 15. Saint Mary's had won a school-record 19 straight games before falling to Gonzaga.
The Gaels went on an 11-0 run to build a 19-6 lead with 13:17 left in the first half. Hermanson had a three-point play and hit a 3-point shot during the spurt. Ford capped it by nailing a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
"We definitely came out with a lot of energy tonight," Hermanson said. "We were just ready to play from the get-go. We've been a little bit slow a couple games. We were kind of itching to get back on the court, and tonight you could really tell right away."
Pepperdine hosts Portland on Saturday in its WCC regular-season finale. The Waves fell 85-76 in overtime at Portland on Feb. 1.
Saint Mary's hosts Santa Clara on Saturday in its final WCC regular-season game. The Gaels beat the Broncos 81-57 on Jan. 11 at Santa Clara.
Updated February 23, 2018