SAN JOSE, Calif. — Jock Landale wasn’t pleased with his defense and pointed out that Saint Mary’s made its best run when he was on the bench.
Coach Randy Bennett had a similar view of the defense and blamed himself.
The Gaels are unbeaten and likely to take another step up in the AP Top 25, but the defense isn’t where Bennett and his players expect it to be.
Landale had 22 points and nine rebounds, Emmett Naar matched his career high with 12 assists and No. 21 Saint Mary’s beat San Jose State 79-61 on Sunday night.
“We were very streaky there,” Bennett said. “Some of it’s personnel, and some of it is I have to do a better job with this team getting us ready defensively.”
Most of the problems came in the paint, where San Jose State scored the majority of its points. First-year coach Jean Prioleau’s team came into the game averaging 18 turnovers but had only nine against the Gaels.
That enabled the Spartans to keep it close before Saint Mary’s pulled away.
“We have a lot to work on defensively and we all know that,” Landale said. “We were just letting them get too many drop-offs and stuff.”
Calvin Hermanson added 14 points while Tanner Krebs also had a career-high 14 with four 3-pointers, all of them in the first half, as the Gaels (4-0) picked up their seventh consecutive win over the Spartans.
Saint Mary’s led by 10 at halftime and then pulled away in the second half behind Landale and Naar, who was mostly a facilitator before scoring six straight points to put the Gaels up 71-53.
San Jose State (1-3) cut the gap to 73-61 with 4:21 remaining, but Cullen Neal made a 3-pointer and a free throw and Jordan Ford added a short jumper to maintain the Gaels’ cushion.
Ryan Welage scored 20 points and Keith Fisher III added 14 for the Spartans. San Jose State has lost three straight.
“They’re big and they’re deep,” Piroleau said of Saint Mary’s. “It’s a very solid team. Hopefully our program’s going to be able to get to that point some day. That’s what we want to do.”
With San Jose State focused on trying to contain Landale and Hermanson, Krebs found himself wide open for much of the first half. He took advantage, going 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.
“When the first one went in and my shot felt really nice and I was like, ‘OK, let’s see how it goes,” Krebs said. “Lately I’ve been feeling really good about my shot. I’ve been putting the work in.”
Naar recently moved into second place on the Gaels’ list for career assists. He has 38 through four games and needs 209 more to move past Matthew Dellavedova for the school record.
“He’s 100 percent healthier than he was last year, so that makes a big difference for him, being able to beat guys for layups and get away from guys,” Bennett said.
A fourth straight win to open the season coupled with No. 20 Northwestern’s loss to Texas Tech likely means the Gaels will make another small move up in the rankings.
Saint Mary’s: Naar doesn’t get a lot of credit on this team, but he continues to be the rudder that guides the offense. He’s twice reached double digits in assists this season. The Gaels played pretty well defensively and held up when the offense went through a few lulls. Krebs’ scoring off the bench is also a good sign.
San Jose State: The Spartans matched the Gaels’ energy most of the night and went toe-to-toe on the boards, something that’s become a staple under Prioleau. Depth was the difference. Saint Mary’s kept coming while San Jose State couldn’t overcome the early 10-point deficit.
Saint Mary’s: Continues its extended trip and will play Harvard in the Wooden Legacy in Fullerton, California, on Thursday.
San Jose State: The Spartans end their season-opening four-game homestand against Idaho State on Wednesday.