MORAGA, Calif. (AP) Randy Bennett couldn’t say enough good things about his team’s offense after No. 17 Saint Mary’s reached triple digits for the first time in nearly four years.
It was the defense that bothered the Gaels’ coach, a message that Bennett delivered strongly to his players after the game.
Emmett Naar had 16 points and 11 assists to pace seven scorers in double figures in the Gaels’ 110-72 victory over Prairie View A&M on Wednesday night.
“We were not engaged enough in what we were supposed to be doing,” Bennett said after the Gaels allowed the Panthers to shoot 44.6 percent from the field. “We need to get better defensively. We’re not good enough.”
The Gaels scored in triple digits for the first time since Dec. 12, 2012, when they beat Jackson State 120-67.
More than half the points came from Saint Mary’s bench, which outscored the Panthers’ 63-30.
“I don’t think anyone scored 20, which is pretty good,” Naar said. “Having a deep bench like that is amazing. For the other team it’s more guys to worry about, more guys to scout. It just adds a lot to our team.”
Naar, an All-West Coast Conference pick as a sophomore last season who was held to six points in the Gaels’ season-opener, shot 7 of 9 from the field. He scored eight points in the first 5 minutes of the second half, including two 3-pointers as part of a 15-4 run.
Jock Landale added 13 points and eight rebounds while Stefan Gonzalez had 14 points for Saint Mary’s (2-0).
L.J. Westbrook had 13 points for Prairie View A&M (1-2), which was coming off a win over defending Mountain West champ Fresno State.
“We kept fighting the best we could,” Panthers coach Byron Smith said. “There’s something to be said for playing a talented team like that. It gets you ready.”
Kyle Clark had 10 of his 12 points in the first half, including two 3s, and Jordan Ford scored eight points over the final 5 minutes as the Gaels built a 54-37 halftime lead. Ford did not play in Saint Mary’s season-opening win after getting banged around in the preseason.
Prairie View A&M: Smith’s team wasn’t able to build off its upset of Fresno State two days earlier and couldn’t recover after falling behind early. That could be expected following three games in six days. The schedule lightens up a bit now, so that should help.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels looked crisp on both ends of the court and beat the Panthers to almost every loose ball, typical for a Bennett-coached team. The ball movement was also strong – 26 assists – which should give them some momentum heading onto the road for the first time this season.
JUGGLING THE LINEUP
Bennett said he’s committed to his starting lineup but acknowledged the Gaels’ depth could lead him to jumble it at some point. “This team is going to keep evolving,” Bennett said. “That’s going to be the tricky thing because there are some guys coming off the bench that can really help us. I like our depth a lot. We just have to get all those guys comfortable and get them to understand their role.”
Beating a smaller Prairie View A&M team isn’t likely to move the Gaels up much but the way they did it – dominating in every meaningful category including rebounds, assists, second-chance points – should earn them a little more credit.
Prairie View A&M: The Panthers make their final stop on a season-opening four-game trip at Texas San Antonio on Saturday
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels leave the comforts of home for the first time this season when they travel to play Dayton on Saturday.