Hermanson’s big first half sets the tone for No. 19 Gaels

Saint Mary's Emmett Naar, right, shoots past Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's Joseph Kilgore during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016, in Moraga, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

MORAGA, Calif. (AP) Calvin Hermanson found a way to get Saint Mary’s offense going early on a night when the 19th-ranked Gaels didn’t have much rhythm to their shooting.

An improving defense and a dominant effort on the boards helped, too.

Hermanson scored 18 of his 19 points in the first half and Saint Mary’s beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 67-46 on Tuesday night.

”There wasn’t a ton of energy in the building at the beginning,” said Hermanson, made seven of his first 11 shots. ”I felt pretty good. The ball was going in, guys were finding me and we were moving the ball really well. We were getting good looks.”

Good looks, yes, but coach Randy Bennett wasn’t pleased with the results. Saint Mary’s shot just 38.5 percent in the second half and was 23 of 55 overall.

On the other hand, the Gaels held the Islanders 36 points below their season average of 82.1 and had a 45-27 rebounding advantage,

”That enabled us to, on a tough shooting night, be able to hold them off,” Bennett said. ”I don’t know why we’re struggling a little offensively. I don’t know what the deal is. We just have to keep getting better.”

Jock Landale added 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Gaels (9-1), who have won three straight since suffering their only loss of the season against Texas-Arlington on Dec. 8.

Hermanson scored 10 of the Gaels’ first 17 points then had eight straight including two 3-pointers to cap a 12-0 run in the first half.

The game was interrupted briefly in the second half when Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Ehab Amin appeared to run into a young girl who had walked onto the court to dry a wet area. The child appeared uninjured but was carried away to be examined.

Saint Mary’s had to hold off a second-half charge by the Islanders (7-3) in only the second game between the schools.

After Rashawn Thomas made two free throws to pull Texas A&M-CC within 55-46 with 5:36 remaining, Joe Rahon made a free throw and a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired. Landale added a basket off a feed from Emmett Naar, Jordan Ford had a 3 and Tanner Krebs scored as the Gaels ended the game on a 12-0 run.

”It’s good for us to be able to fight through that, figure things out on the fly,” said Rahon, who scored 14 points for Saint Mary’s. ”When it comes to league play you’re going to need to win those games.”

Thomas finished with a season-high 22 points with eight rebounds. He had two blocked shots to set the school career record with 171.

BIG PICTURE

Texas A&M-CC: The Islanders remained winless in 11 games against Top 25 teams but they had their chances in this one. The offense went cold down the stretch, as coach Willis Wilson’s team was held without a field goal over the final 6:57.

Saint Mary’s: With three straight convincing wins since their lone loss the Gaels are definitely back on track. They had some problems putting the Islanders away but had a good enough cushion to hold them off.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Gaels have bounced back nicely and have another home game to keep the streak going. That they won fairly convincingly without Naar having a big game is a positive.

TURNOVERS, TURNOVERS

Saint Mary’s committed seven turnovers in the first 18 minutes of the game, matching the total from its win over Western Kentucky last week. The Gaels finished with nine turnovers in the half and 13 for the game.

”A little bit uncharacteristic of us,” Hermanson said. ”It was kind of weird. We’re not used to turning the ball over. That’ll be an area that we definitely look at.”

UP NEXT

Texas A&M CC: The Islanders travel to play at Oklahoma State on Thursday afternoon.

Saint Mary’s: Hosts South Carolina State on Thursday night.

More AP college basketball: www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.