No. 20 Saint Mary’s looks to overwhelm overmatched Pepperdine

Saint Mary’s will try to add to its impressive win total when the 20th-ranked Gaels visit Pepperdine in a West Coast Conference game Thursday night at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu, Calif.

Saint Mary’s (24-3, 14-2 WCC) has won two in a row and nine of its last 10 games, the only blemish during that stretch being a 74-64 loss to top-ranked Gonzaga on Feb. 11. The Gaels, who will conclude the regular season at home against Santa Clara on Saturday, are two games behind Gonzaga in the WCC.

Pepperdine (9-19, 5-11) is tied with San Diego for seventh in the WCC. The Waves have lost their last two games after winning three in a row. The Waves are tied for seventh in the WCC.

Saint Mary’s is coming off a 70-57 victory over BYU on Saturday. The Gaels shot 47.2 percent from the field and made 10 of 26 from 3-point range while holding the Cougars to 39.7-percent shooting and 4-of-14 shooting from beyond the arc.

“It’s always tough to win up here,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “BYU has a good team. We didn’t turn the ball over and we shot it well and we were able to get some separation, which made it tough on them and we seemed to wear them out after that. We did a good job defensively on their guards.”

Calvin Hermanson posted 17 points and six rebounds in the win over BYU. Evan Fitzner added 15 points and six rebounds. The two big men combined for seven of the team’s 10 3-point goals. Their contributions were key on a night when standout Jock Landale was held to seven points and four rebounds due to foul trouble.

“Fitzner and Hermanson played well tonight and made the shots we needed,” Bennett said. “… We are a little different team with Fitzner out there and the way he spaces the floor. Dane Pineau can play the five, but, overall, we just play differently with Fitzner. It’s nice to have a Plan A and Plan B. Tonight, Landale got in foul trouble, so we had to play the other way, and, fortunately, Fitzner played well.”

Pepperdine is coming off an 82-61 loss to rival Loyola Marymount on Saturday. Lamond Murray Jr. scored 18 points and passed Pepperdine legend Doug Christie for 17th place on the Waves’ all-time scoring list. Nolan Taylor had a career-high 17 points.

The Waves had only eight scholarship players available for the game. Starters Chris Reyes (foot), Amadi Udenyi (Achilles) and Kameron Edwards (jaw) all missed the game.

Saint Mary’s rolled to an 85-65 victory over Pepperdine when the teams met last month. Joe Rahon scored 22 points, Hermanson had 19 and Landale recorded a double-double, posting 15 points and 10 rebounds. Murray had 29 points for Pepperdine.

The Gaels shot a sizzling 56.9 percent from the field and made 7 of 18 from 3-point range in that contest. The Waves shot 45.8 percent and made 7 of 19 from long distance, but they were out-rebounded 38-22.