MORAGA, Calif. (AP) Saint Mary’s reserve Tanner Krebs had struggled all season with his 3-point shot, but San Diego coach Lamont Smith wasn’t surprised when the redshirt freshman from the Australian island of Tasmania made all four of his attempts Friday night.
“We knew he could shoot the basketball. Nobody on their roster is a bum,” Smith said after Krebs’ 12 points helped trigger a 72-60 win by the No. 20 Gaels.
Krebs had made just 29 percent (8-for-28) from beyond the arc this season, but his three 3-pointers late in the first half keyed the Gaels’ rally from an early 9-2 hole against a USD team picked to finish last in the West Coast Conference.
“He came in and busted the game open,” Smith said.
“Beginning of the year, I believed in my shot, they just weren’t going in,” Krebs said. “The more the games went on and the more I missed, I think my confidence started to go down a little bit.
“Coach has given me green light to shoot the ball. Today it went in. It felt good.”
Center Jock Landale, another Australian import, had 14 points and nine rebounds for the Gaels (12-1, 2-0 WCC), who won their sixth straight game.
Brett Bailey scored 19 points to lead the Toreros (7-7, 0-2), who battled the Gaels all night.
“We couldn’t get rid of them,” Bennett said.
“In the second half we did a good job of executing, but we couldn’t get stops,” Smith said. “We played well in spurts, not well enough to get a win.”
San Diego: The five-game win streak the Toreros brought into WCC play is in the rear-view mirror now. At 0-2 in conference play, San Diego moves into a stretch of game it can win, including home dates the next two Thursdays against Pacific and Santa Clara. If USD has designs on bettering its 4-14 WCC mark of a year ago, now is the time to make a move.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels’ season is about to become a bit more challenging. After chewing up a series of mostly overmatched opponents so far, they are home against BYU – a perennial top-3 WCC finisher – on Thursday, then play three in a row on the road, including at early-season surprise San Francisco and conference favorite Gonzaga.
Don’t expect the Gaels to make any headway in the Top-25. They weren’t particularly impressive in a win at Loyola Marymount (19 turnovers) earlier this week, and teams below them (Oregon, in particular) could climb in the rankings.
BENCH BOOST: Saint Mary’s got a huge lift from its bench, which scored 35 points – just two fewer than the starters provided. “Tanner gave us some points when the starters weren’t scoring,” Bennett said. But it was more than that. True freshman Jordan Ford equaled his career-best with 12 points and Dane Pineau scored nine as the Gaels’ reserves shot a combined 12-for-16.
“That’s where our team needs to be,” Bennett said of the balance. “We’ve got good depth. I have confidence in those guys.”
San Diego returns home to face Pacific (6-9, 0-2) next Thursday. The teams split two games last season and Pacific holds a 4-3 series lead since joining the WCC in 2013-14. The Tigers lost 81-61 to No. 7 Gonzaga at home on Saturday.
Saint Mary’s faces BYU at home next Thursday. The Cougars (11-4, 2-0) beat Loyola Marymount 81-76 on Saturday in their first true road game of the season. Saint Mary’s and BYU have split four games the past two seasons, each holding serve at home.