Jock Landale (31 points, 13 rebounds) has been the favorite to win WCC Player of the Year since the preseason, and his Gaels were picked to finish atop the conference. But BYU’s Yoeli Childs (29 points, 10 rebounds) has emerged as a legitimate challenger, and the Cougars have looked every bit as good as Saint Mary’s this season.
Saturday in Provo, BYU led for the majority of the game, but in the end Saint Mary’s experience proved too much for the young Cougars.
Saint Mary’s is one of the nation’s most elite, efficient offensive teams but for the first 30 minutes or so the Gaels were a mess. They almost never turn the ball over, but tied their season high with 15. Their roster is loaded with shooters, but in the first half they went just three-for-13 from distance.
The only thing going for the Gaels was their senior center. Landale missed just one shot in each half (13-15 FG), but the Cougars almost never doubled him.
Late in the game, however, the tide started to turn. BYU’s defense, which has been markedly better this season, started to come apart. Landale drew more attention just as the Gaels’ shooters started finding their touch.
Emmett Naar (12 points) hit a three with 7:34 left in the game to bring Saint Mary’s within a point. Evan Fitzner (7 points) drained one of his own a few minutes later to keep it a one possession game. Then, with 1:34 to go, Tanner Krebs (9 points) knocked down a three to give the Gaels a two point lead.
From Naar’s three pointer until the end of regulation Jock Landale scored just one point.
The shooting stayed hot for Saint Mary’s in the overtime period, as well. Sharpshooter Calvin Hermanson (8 points) was left open in the corner and made BYU pay. His three with 1:08 to play pushed Saint Mary’s ahead by eight points, and it was all over from there.
Childs did not score in the overtime period as his Cougars were outscored 14-4.
The POY award is still Landale’s to lose. And, sitting atop the West Coast Conference at 13-2 (2-0), Saint Mary’s has an early leg up on BYU in the league race. The Cougars, now 12-3 (1-1), will get a second shot at Saint Mary’s in Moraga on Jan. 25.