No. 22 Saint Mary’s escapes vs Pepperdine in WCC quarters
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Facing a six-win team that was 19 games under .500, No. 22 Saint Mary’s suddenly found itself down 15 points in the early going Saturday night.
Thanks to some clutch shooting from Calvin Hermanson, the Gaels recovered just in time.
Jock Landale had 17 points and 19 rebounds, and Saint Mary’s withstood a scare from underdog Pepperdine in the West Coast Conference quarterfinals before squeaking out a 69-66 victory at the Orleans Arena.
The 10th-seeded Waves (6-26) led most of the way and missed four potential tying 3-pointers in the final 26 seconds.
“We’ll take it. It wasn’t pretty,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “That was a tough game. There’s a lot of pressure on us. Pepperdine had been playing well. They are tough to guard. I wasn’t particularly happy with the way we played, but we hung in there and came back. Our seniors stepped up and we were able to escape.”
After a day off, second-seeded Saint Mary’s (28-4) will face No. 3 seed BYU in the tournament semifinals Monday.
Jordan Ford scored 19 points for Saint Mary’s, and Emmett Naar had 16 on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range. Hermanson added 14, including three big 3s late in the second half.
“The game wasn’t going our way. I was a prime example of that,” Hermanson said. “We started finding Jock down low. He’s one of the best passing big men in the country. He was finding people open outside and we played through him and good things happen.”
Colbey Ross scored 15 for Pepperdine but missed three potential tying 3s in the final 22 seconds, including the final one from the right side. Darnell Dunn also had 15 points, while Trae Berhow and Kameron Edwards added 13 apiece.
After trailing 62-57 with 4:13 left, the Gaels went an 8-0 run highlighted by Hermanson’s two 3-pointers. The first one tied it at 62 with 3:26 remaining and the second one gave Saint Mary’s the lead for good, 65-62, with 2:28 to go.
Two free throws by Pepperdine made it a one-point game with 2:01 left before Hermanson hit another 3 with 1:43 to play.
Still, the Waves would not go away.
Ross missed a 3 that would have tied it with 22 seconds remaining, and Edwards missed another one six seconds later. Tanner Krebs missed two free throws on the other end for Saint Mary’s before Ross was off target on another 3 with four seconds left.
Hermanson was called for traveling on the ensuing possession, giving the Waves one last chance for Ross.
“To battle Saint Mary’s, they showed what they are made of,” Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson said about his players. “Lots of respect for our guys. We talked about it all year: How are we going to handle adversity? Our guys have been professional. They come to work every day. They could have easily quit.”
Wilson will not be back next season, an announcement that was made Feb. 13.
FAST START FOR THE WAVES
Pepperdine scored the first five points and led 19-4 with less than 12 minutes until halftime. Saint Mary’s rallied to take a 23-22 lead with 4:36 to go but trailed 33-28 at the break.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels are 21-3 when three or more players score in double digits. ... The bench was outscored 17-1 by Pepperdine’s reserves. ... This is the seventh time in 10 years that Saint Mary’s is the No. 2 seed in the WCC Tournament.
Pepperdine: After setting a tournament record by shooting 71 percent Friday night in an 85-69 win over Santa Clara, the Waves finished at 39 percent Saturday. They committed only six turnovers.
Pepperdine: Unlikely to receive a postseason tournament invitation.
Saint Mary’s: Plays third-seeded BYU in the semifinals Monday. “If we’re going to advance,” Bennett said, “we have to have more guys play better.”
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