No. 20 St. Mary’s races past Western Kentucky

AP Photo/Ben Margot
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MORAGA, Calif. (AP) — Jock Landale had 15 points and 13 rebounds and No. 20 Saint Mary’s jumped to a quick lead it never relinquished to beat Western Kentucky 73-51 on Wednesday night.

Evan Fitzner scored eight of his team’s first 12 points as the Gaels took control from the tip. He finished with 11 points and three 3-pointers, while Emmett Naar had 14 points and six assists.

Landale went 7 for 13 from the field and is shooting 65 of 99 — 65.6 percent — on the season for the Gaels (8-1), who used a late 13-2 run in the first half for a 38-24 lead.

Justin Johnson and Que Johnson each scored 11 points to lead Western Kentucky (4-6).

Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett has challenged his team recently to play with more defensive fire, and the Gaels shut down Pancake Thomas. A graduate transfer in his first season with the Hilltoppers, Thomas shot 2 of 8 for four points and missed his three tries from 3-point range after getting a season-best 22 points in a win over Indiana State on Sunday.

The Hilltoppers shot 37.5 percent and 5 of 17 from 3-point range to lose for the fifth time in six games.

Saint Mary’s guard Joe Rahon limped off with a right leg injury with 4:37 left before halftime then returned just before intermission.

In the first meeting between the programs, Saint Mary’s jumped to a 7-0 lead in the opening 2:27 and 12-2 then never looked back.

BIG PICTURE

Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers’ 24 first-half points matched their season low. … WKU dropped to 35-97 all-time against ranked opponents and hasn’t won a true road game against a Top 25 team since stunning No. 4 Kentucky on Nov. 15, 2001. … Coach Rick Stansbury still needs three wins for 300 career victories. … The Hilltoppers will have gone 29 days between home games.

Saint Mary’s: The Hilltoppers were Saint Mary’s second Conference USA opponent after a win over UAB late last month. … Top Warriors assistant Mike Brown sat courtside on an off day before Golden State hosts the Knicks on Thursday. Brown played at San Diego for 16th-year Gaels coach Bennett.

UP NEXT

Western Kentucky: At Detroit Mercy on Saturday to conclude a stretch of seven games on the road or at neutral sites over nearly a month’s time covering more than 10,000 miles and hitting six states.

Saint Mary’s: Host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Sunday in the fourth game of a five-game home stand before the start of conference play.