No. 7 Saint Mary’s survives No. 10 VCU

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No. 7 Saint Mary’s fended off a second-half comeback attempt by No. 10 VCU, advancing to the second round following an 85-77 win on Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

It was a matchup of contrasting styles. For the majority of the night, it was Saint Mary’s efficient offense, one that plays at a methodical pace, getting the better of VCU and its Havoc defense.

The Gaels led by as many as 17, but VCU was able to string a 15-2 run together by turning Saint Mary’s over. That cut the deficit to 56-54 with more than nine minutes remaining in regulation.

Saint Mary’s countered that by controlling the pace for the remainder of the evening. The Gaels committed five turnovers during VCU’s run. They had only a single miscue in the final nine minutes.

Saint Mary’s committed 15 turnovers on the night, but 10 of them came in spurts. The Gaels had a handful of turnovers in the opening minutes, however the Rams couldn’t take advantage of those errors. Once they settled in, the Gaels offense dominated the first half thanks to a combined 22 points from Aussies Jock Landale and Tanner Krebs. As a team, Saint Mary’s shot 64 percent from the field, taking a 46-31 lead into halftime.

VCU’s comeback attempt was curbed by a lack of 3-point threats, and the fact that Saint Mary’s spent a lot of Thursday night at the free throw line. The Gales connected on 29-of-39 from the charity stripe.

Landale ended the game with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Calvin Hermanson and Joe Rahon each had 16. JeQuan Lewis ended with a game-high 30 points.

Saint Mary’s advances to the second round to play the winner of No. 2 Arizona and No. 15 North Dakota.