No. 19 Saint Mary’s beats Loyola Marymount in WCC opener (Dec 29, 2016)

Saint Mary's Emmett Naar dribbles the ball against Loyola Marymount during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016, in Los Angeles. Saint Mary's won 72-60. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

LOS ANGELES (AP) Saint Mary’s was tested in the second half Thursday night and passed. And the way the Gaels look at it, that should pay off down the road.

Emmett Naar scored 19 points and Jock Landale added 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead No. 19 Saint Mary’s over Loyola Marymount 72-60 in the West Coast Conference opener for both teams.

Naar went 6 of 9 from the field and had five assists as the Gaels (11-1) won their fifth consecutive game.

”We did not take care of the ball most of the game, but with four or five minutes left we clamped down on that and got stops,” Naar said. ”They cut the lead to one point and we faced adversity, and this type of win helps us gain some valuable experience.”

Landale shot 6 of 10 while posting his fourth straight double-double and fifth this season.

”They’re a big, physical team and they play tough defense,” Landale said. ”We hit some big shots and we came together late in the game. It’s the first conference game and we may have come out a little flat in the beginning, but in the end we got tough.”

Joe Rahon had 11 points, seven assists and three steals for Saint Mary’s, which defeated the Lions (7-5) for the 10th time in a row and improved to 4-0 on the road this season. Calvin Hermanson scored 10.

Trevor Manuel led Loyola Marymount with 18 points before fouling out with 1:29 left. Brandon Brown scored 11 for the Lions.

Despite the loss, Loyola Marymount coach Mike Dunlap was pleased with his team’s effort.

”Saint Mary’s showed why they are 10-1 when they made all of the key plays in the second half and we didn’t,” Dunlap said. ”Our organization has to earn respect. We’re trying to do better and eliminate some of the turnovers.”

After trailing by double digits early in the second half, the Lions cut the deficit to 42-41 with 11:09 remaining following Kelvin Amayo’s basket.

But the Gaels rebounded and increased their lead to 58-50 on Landale’s bucket with 5:18 to play.

Saint Mary’s outrebounded LMU 38-26 and shot 57.5 percent but committed a season-high 19 turnovers.

”It’s a great win to come in here on the road and win,” Gaels coach Randy Bennett said. ”We rebounded and defended well, but it’s a joke that we had 19 turnovers and we missed free throws. We have to do a better job taking care of the ball. We usually average nine turnovers, so we have to work on that.”

LMU set a season low for points and fell to 4-13 in its last 17 games against ranked opponents.

Naar and Rahon combined for 16 points and six assists in the first half as the Gaels took a 34-25 lead at the break. Saint Mary’s shot 59.1 percent in the opening half but committed 10 turnovers and missed five of 10 free throws.

Brown and Manuel each scored seven points to lead the Lions in the first half, but LMU shot only 34.5 percent and was outrebounded 19-12.

BIG PICTURE

Saint Mary’s: The Gaels are 10-1 in their last 11 conference openers. Saint Mary’s, once again one of the top teams in the WCC, is 117-35 over the last eight seasons in league play.

Loyola Marymount: Dunlap continues to rebuild the program in his third year as coach. After winning six more games last season than the one before, LMU has lost three games this season by three points or fewer.

DEE-FENSE! DEE-FENSE!

Saint Mary’s is holding opponents to just 57.5 points per game, fourth-best in the nation. A large part of the defensive success has stemmed from the Gaels limiting foes to 30.1 percent shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.

AUSTRALIAN CONNECTION

The Gaels’ roster features seven players from Australia: Landale, Naar, Kyle Clark, Jordan Hunter, Tanner Krebs, Dane Pineau and Jock Perry.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

For the second consecutive week, Saint Mary’s is ranked No. 19 in the AP poll. The Gaels have been ranked as high as No. 11 this season.

UP NEXT

Saint Mary’s: The Gaels host WCC opponent San Diego on Saturday.

Loyola Marymount: The Lions complete their four-game homestand with a New Year’s Eve matchup Saturday against conference rival BYU.