MORAGA, Calif. — Despite limiting Saint Mary's to season lows in points (70), field goal percentage (.463) and 3-point percentage (.269), Sacramento State had no answer for Gaels' center Jock Landale in a 70-54 loss on Monday evening at McKeon Pavilion.
Landale, a 6-foot-11, 255-pound big man, posted career highs in points (37) and rebounds (18) while shooting 14-of-20 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free throw line. He already had 24 points and 12 rebounds at halftime. If you take out Landale's performance, the rest of the Saint Mary's squad scored a combined 33 points on 11-of-34 shooting from the field.
A perennial basketball power, Saint Mary's is currently receiving votes in the top 25 poll, and has qualified for either the NCAA Tournament or NIT 10 consecutive years. The Gaels and Hornets were facing each other for the first time since 2004. Despite the strong defensive effort, Sacramento State's offense could muster just 54 points on .407 (22-54) shooting from the field and .286 (4-14) from the 3-point line. Saint Mary's also had a huge 40-24 edge in the rebounding department. Sacramento State grabbed just four offensive rebounds the entire game.
With the victory, the Gaels improved to 7-2 overall and 30-6 all-time against the Hornets. Sacramento State, playing the finale of a stretch of six straight games away from home, dropped to 1-7 overall. The Hornets have lost six straight, the longest losing streak for the program since the 2011-12 season.
The Hornets, who have played the entire season without what would have been their starting back court (Marcus Graves, Jiday Ugbaja) because of injury, began the game on an 8-2 run. In fact, Sacramento State scored on three of its first five possessions, which included a pair of three-point plays from Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa. That was the start of a huge night for Mauriohooho-Le'afa who set a new career high with 20 points. The sophomore from New Zealand scored 11 of the Hornets' first 13 points of the game, shot 7-of-13 from the field, 3-for-5 from the 3-point line and 3-of-3 from the free throw line while also adding six rebounds, three assists and a steal in 34 minutes. The 20 points surpassed his previous career high of 16, set last season at Southern Utah.
After the Hornets scored eight of the game's first 10 points, however, Saint Mary's immediately responded with a 14-2 run over a five-minute stretch that put the Gaels on top, 16-10, at the 12:06 mark of the first half. The Gaels would not relinquish their lead the rest of the way, holding an advantage for 34:24 of game clock. Saint Mary's would lead by double figures the final 25:55 of game clock, although that lead never exceeded 18 points and the Hornets had the lead trimmed to 10 or 11 points on nine different occasions in the second half. A Joshua Patton layup had the Hornets within, 61-50, with 3:09 left, but the Gaels finished on a 9-4 run to provide the final score.
Saint Mary's entered the game averaging a massive 81.9 points per contest while shooting .516 from the field and .412 from the 3-point line. Tonight against the Hornets, however, the Gaels were limited to .463 shooting (25-54) from the field and .269 (7-26) from the 3-point line. In addition, Saint Mary's was forced into 15 turnovers, the most the team has committed all season. Sacramento State had eight steals as five different players had at least one steal.
Sacramento State finished shooting .407 (22-54) from the field and .286 (4-14) from the 3-point line. Both teams shot well from the free throw line with Saint Mary's going 13-for-16 and the Hornets 6-of-8. Despite Saint Mary's having a healthy edge in the rebounding department, the Gaels had just a 12-6 advantage in second chance points.
Besides Mauriohooho-Le'afa, only one other Hornet had more than five points and that was senior Justin Strings who had 15 points and six rebounds in a team-high 36 minutes. It marked the 28th straight game in double figures for Strings. The combination of Mauriohooho-Le'afa and Strings accounted for 35 of the Hornets' 54 points. Sophomore Joshua Patton had five points and two steals, freshman Bryce Fowler had four points and three rebounds in his third straight start, and senior James Herrick had four points in four minutes. Jordan Tolbert, the team's second leading scorer, was limited to a season-low two points on 1-of-5 shooting. He also had two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 18 minutes.
Sacramento State will finally return home to the Nest on Wednesday night when the team faces Antelope Valley (Lancaster, Calif.) at 7:35 p.m. That game is the nightcap of a doubleheader that will see the Hornet women facing Antelope Valley at 5:05 p.m.
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