No. 16 Saint Mary’s beats Portland for 16th straight win
MORAGA, Calif. (AP) — Saint Mary’s celebrated its school-record 16th straight win the same way as the previous 15 — with no announcement over the loudspeakers and no recognition of any sort.
Just a few handshakes and hugs, typical of the 16th-ranked Gaels all season.
Jordan Ford tied his career high with 20 points, including 16 in the first half, and Saint Mary’s beat Portland 72-55 on Saturday night.
The Gaels (21-2, 10-0 West Coast Conference) never trailed and led by as many as 24 while eclipsing the 2008-09 team for most consecutive wins.
“Obviously we take some pride in that but we’ve got bigger goals that we want to accomplish,” Ford said.
Randy Bennett echoed Ford’s sentiment. The longtime Saint Mary’s coach wasn’t even aware of where the streak ranked in the school record book until a few days ago.
“I know how hard it is to do, because I’ve been a part of these teams, but there’s a bigger challenge there,” Bennett said. “And that’s trying to put yourself in a position to win the league and trying to get to the NCAA Tournament. I think that’s where our guys’ potential and focus is and that’s where it needs to be.”
Emmett Naar had 10 points and six assists, and Calvin Hermanson scored 16 while leading a Saint Mary’s barrage from the perimeter. Hermanson made four 3-pointers on a night when the Gaels went 12 of 23 beyond the arc — the sixth time this season they’ve hit 10 or more.
That was critical on a night when WCC leading scorer Jock Landale wasn’t much of a factor offensively after scoring 32 points in each of his previous two games.
Landale had six points on 2-of-4 shooting with 11 rebounds while facing 7-foot-2 Portland center Philipp Hartwich most of the night. Hartwich, the league’s leading shot blocker, was held scoreless and had seven rebounds.
“They’ve been doing a box-and-one in multiple games, so we knew that somebody was going to get iced out,” Ford said. “It kind of just opened up things for everybody else on the perimeter.”
Saint Mary’s led by 24 in the second half before Portland made a run. JoJo Walker hit a pair of 3-pointers and Marcus Shaver Jr. added five points to pull the Pilots to 50-35 with 13 minutes left.
Hermanson followed with a 3, Naar added back-to-back buckets and Landale made two free throws as Saint Mary’s pulled away.
Walker finished with 15 points for Portland (8-15, 2-8).
“We talked about taking (Landale) away and not giving him the type of touches that he needed to be effective, but we lost track of the 3-point shooters,” Pilots coach Terry Porter said. “A lot of them early on were uncontested and that’s where the problem came. We took away Jock and then they just show you how they can hurt you in another way.”
ONE STREAK ENDS
Landale had scored 10 or more in 27 consecutive games, including all 22 this season, before getting shut down by Portland. “He kept his composure and didn’t worry about anything else other than what’s going to help the team win — which is hard to do,” Bennett said. “He was pretty unselfish, so I thought he played it right.”
With No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 13 Ohio State both losing this week, Saint Mary’s could move up a spot or two in next week’s rankings.
Portland: The Pilots did a good job keeping Landale out of the offensive mix for Saint Mary’s, but their own offense was sporadic most of the game. It’s another lesson for Porter’s young team, which was coming off a 16-point loss to No. 15 Gonzaga.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels have looked extremely strong in two wins since beating Gonzaga to take control of the WCC. The best part for Bennett’s team is that Saint Mary’s won despite Landale’s slow night. It was the first time Landale was held under double digits since Feb. 18 last season.
Portland: Hosts Pepperdine on Thursday.
Saint Mary’s: Hosts San Francisco on Thursday.
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