MORAGA, Calif. — Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett likes knowing that his team’s 15-game winning streak hasn’t received much national attention.
The way the 16th-ranked Gaels have been playing lately, it’s going to be difficult to ignore.
Jock Landale had 32 points and 14 rebounds and No. 16 Saint Mary’s pulled away in the second half to beat BYU 75-62 on Thursday night.
The 15-game winning streak matches the longest in Saint Mary’s history. The Gaels also won 15 straight in 2008-09.
“This little run they’ve had, most of it’s been under the radar,” Bennett said of his current squad. “For a team having a streak like that, it hasn’t felt like that. The pressure of the streak, the talk of the streak, none of that’s been prevalent. It’s been kind of nice actually.”
Emmett Naar added 13 points and 12 assists and Evan Fitzner made a key 3-pointer late to help the Gaels (20-2, 9-0 West Coast Conference) hold on for their fifth consecutive win over the Cougars (17-5, 6-3). Naar, who came into the game second in the country for assists, needs 33 more to break the school’s career record.
Landale was dominant all game on Australian night at McKeon Pavilion. He helped the Gaels get out to an early lead in a back-and-forth first half then scored 18 in the second half, including 11 straight during one stretch. Landale also made a nifty assist when he passed to Naar cutting down the lane for an easy bucket.
Naar returned the favor with an alley-oop pass to the Saint Mary’s big man for a dunk that put the Gaels up 61-53.
“Things went my way tonight and the team’s way as well,” Landale said. “It’s always great to win on Australian night. It was good fun.”
After McKay Cannon’s 3-pointer made it 61-56, Landale made two free throws, Fitzner hit a 3-poiinter and Landale added a three-point play.
It’s the sixth time this season that Landale has scored 30 or more. He also has double-doubles in 12 of the last 14 games.
“It’s ridiculous how unsurprising it is,” Naar said. “He’s been doing it all year. For most players you’d be like, wow, that’s unbelievable. But he’s done it so many times now you sort of take him for granted a little bit.”
TJ Haws scored 15 points, Yoeli Childs added 14 and Elijah Bryant had 13 points and nine assist for BYU.
“Saint Mary’s is really good at what they do and they just stayed with it,” Cougars coach Dave Rose said. “It’s discouraging, we executed the game plan in a lot of ways, but just didn’t come up with a win.”
The Gaels won in their first game since returning to the Top 25 after a two-month absence.
BYU stayed close early despite a strong effort from Landale in the first half.
The reigning conference player of the week, Landale was dominant down low. He scored on a pair of up-and-under moves, made a dunk off an assist from Naar and added two short layups despite BYU’s collapsing defense in the paint. His lone misses came on a rushed 3-pointer with the shot clock running down and a shot under the basket that hit the rim going up.
Normally a guy who likes to work in the paint, Landale made his first 3-pointer of the season with 7:03 remaining. He had missed his previous three attempts. “I was a bit scared when I saw him out there to be honest,” Naar said. “He shoots them well. He can shoot them.”
NOT SO CRISP
The Gaels led by 10 late in the second half but struggled down the stretch with turnovers on their final five possessions. BYU took advantage and closed on a 9-2 run to pull within 33-30 at halftime.
BYU: The Cougars kept it close in the first half but had no answer for Landale. Childs had trouble defending him and Luke Worthington missed most of the second half in foul trouble. BYU was a respectable 7 of 17 on 3-pointers and forced turnovers on Saint Mary’s final five possessions of the first half.
Saint Mary’s: It clearly wasn’t the cleanest of wins for coach Randy Bennett’s teams, which is why Landale was so pivotal. Naar also came up big but no other Gaels player reached double figures and Saint Mary’s had problems taking care of the ball – both points of emphasis by Bennett.
BYU: The Cougars host Pacific on Saturday.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels host Portland on Saturday night.