Hermanson’s 24 leads No. 22 Saint Mary’s past Saint Francis
MORAGA, Calif. (AP) — Calvin Hermanson made his first nine shots and was perfect on five 3-pointers for No. 22 Saint Mary’s until coming up short on his sixth try from beyond the arc.
“And it was open,” Hermanson said of his lone miss.
On a day when the Gaels’ senior more than made up for it on both ends of the court, it hardly mattered.
Hermanson scored 24 points and sparked a pair of big runs with his 3-point shooting then helped key an improved defense in the second half as Saint Mary’s pulled away to beat Saint Francis (Pa.) 85-68 on Saturday.
“That’s Calvin,” Gaels coach Randy Bennett said. “He can get it going. I thought he did a good job defensively, too. He and Tanner Krebs, Elijah (Thomas), those guys helped us defensively.”
Jock Landale had 13 points and eight rebounds, Evan Fitzner added 10 points and Emmett Naar scored eight with a career-high 12 assists to help Saint Mary’s to its 16th consecutive season-opening win.
Earlier in the week the Gaels signed Bennett to a 10-year extension through 2026-27. Saint Mary’s went 29-5 last season.
Hermanson made sure Bennett got to celebrate his new deal on a good note by scoring eight consecutive points as part of a 12-0 run late in the first half then made two 3s during a 10-0 spurt in the second half when the Gaels extended their lead to 18.
“The first shot felt good and once I hit the second one I kind of knew that I was feeling good tonight,” Hermanson said. “That first run in the second half, they might have had two points in 5 minutes, that’s where we separated and went from there.”
Saint Francis, which last beat a ranked team in 1959, couldn’t keep up.
Jamaal King had 15 points, Isaiah Blackmon scored 12 and Keith Braxton added 10 for the Red Flash, the preseason favorites to win the Northeast Conference after finishing 17-17 in 2016.
“When you have a team like that, one of the most efficient offenses in the country with a really, really good post player and really, really good shooters around him, you have to hope that they maybe miss a couple shots,” Saint Francis coach Rob Krimmel said. “And they weren’t missing any shots.”
Blackmon and Braxton kept Saint Francis close in the first half. Blackmon had 10 points and Braxton made consecutive 3s to help the Red Flash pull within 32-31.
Hermanson checked in and gave Saint Mary’s an immediate lift. He made a three-point play after getting fouled on an inbounds play under the basket, scored on an offensive rebound then had a 3-pointer to help the Gaels pull away.
Saint Francis: The Red Flash made the Gaels sweat early but had trouble after halftime on both ends. The good news is that Blackmon and Braxton look ready to pick up where they left off last season. The bad? Krimmel’s team was outrebounded 36-22.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels did a good job moving and sharing the ball with 24 assists, a staple of Bennett’s teams. Hermanson’s perimeter shooting kept the offense flowing until Landale found his flow in the paint.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Naar’s 12 assists were four more than Saint Francis had as a team. Braxton had four of the Red Flash’s eight assists. “Emmett pushes the ball well for us,” Bennett said.
Saint Francis scored the first points of the second half on a drive by Blackmon before Saint Mary’s went on their big run to take control. “We didn’t get the ball to the spots that we needed to get the ball to in order to offset their runs,” Krimel said.
Saint Francis: Stays in Northern California to play at San Francisco on Monday.
Saint Mary’s: Hosts New Mexico State on Monday night. The Gaels are 4-1 all-time against the Aggies, including a 58-56 win in the first-round of the NIT two years ago.