MORAGA, Calif. — Jock Landale was more concerned about enhancing the postseason prospects for Saint Mary’s than he was about making a final appearance at McKeon Pavilion.
It could be another two weeks before the 22nd-ranked Gaels know their fate for certain, but they like their chances of getting into the NCAA Tournament after closing out the regular season with a third straight win.
Landale had 19 points and eight rebounds in his final home game, and No. 22 Saint Mary’s beat Santa Clara 67-40 on Saturday.
Emmett Naar added 12 points and Calvin Hermanson had 10 on Senior Day for Saint Mary’s (27-4, 16-2 West Coast Conference). Jordan Ford scored 13.
“We all did a really good job of blocking (Senior Day) out,” Landale said. “The way we looked at it was we don’t want to play another home game. We want to stay out of the NIT.”
The Gaels appeared in good shape thanks to a 19-game winning streak earlier this season, but their hopes dipped after back-to-back losses earlier this month.
That’s why coach Randy Bennett felt his team still needed to make a favorable impression on the selection committee.
“Absolutely,” Bennett said. “We were 27-5 after the conference tournament (two years ago) and we were watching. You just have to think like an optimist and work like a pessimist. That’s where we’re at.”
A matchup of the top two scorers in the WCC fizzled out quickly when Santa Clara’s KJ Feagin limped off the court with a sprained left ankle with 7:16 left in the first half. He did not return.
Landale had an uneven game in his final appearance at McKeon Pavilion. He missed five of his first nine shots and at times looked uncomfortable in the paint against 267-pound Santa Clara center Emmanuel Ndumanya before helping the Gaels pull away in the second half.
The conference’s top scorer and rebounder, Landale scored 10 points and had a pair of dunks in the second half, including one that put Saint Mary’s up 56-34.
The Gaels struggled from the perimeter but made up for it in the backcourt. Naar, the Gaels’ career assist leader who has been nursing a sore left ankle for the past week, had only one against Santa Clara (11-19, 8-10) but repeatedly scored on drives through the lane.
Ford also gave the Broncos problems and provided the game’s signature moment when he flipped the ball off the glass and in with his left hand after driving past a pair of defenders.
“It gives us another look,” Naar said. “Jock is obviously the bulk of our scoring. If we can penetrate and get inside the key, different teams will do different things. Today they tried to make us finish and score.”
Henry Caruso had 14 points and seven rebounds for Santa Clara.
The Broncos, who lost to the Gaels 81-57 in January, struggled to get anything going without Feagin. Santa Clara went scoreless for nearly eight minutes in the first half and shot 23.5 percent for the game.
Santa Clara: Feagin had four points on 2-of-7 shooting when he got hurt and appeared to get emotional on the bench after being examined by a team trainer. The junior guard had been averaging 23.5 points over the previous four games. Ndumanya also went down late in the second half after a hard fall on the court but walked off on his power.
Saint Mary’s: Hermanson went 2 for 2 on 3-pointers. The rest of the Gaels were a combined 1 of 8 beyond the arc.
AND STILL COUNTING
The Gaels are 106-25 over the past four seasons with Landale, Naar and Hermanson on the roster.
“That’s like a third punch, and we have to have it. Your first punch is Jock. The second punch is you’re shooting 3s. The third punch is you have to get penetration.” — Bennett on the play of Saint Mary’s guards.