Slow and steady Saint Mary’s lit up VCU for 85 points on Thursday in Salt Lake City.
Five Gaels scored in double figures, led by Jock Landale (18 points, 13 rebounds) and as a team, Saint Mary’s shot 55.6 percent from the field. VCU’s JeQuan Lewis led all scorers with 30 points and was joined in double-figures by teammates Ahmed Hamdy Mohamed (12 points) and Jordan Burgess (11 points). The Rams shot 44.6 percent.
Unfortunately, a mid-major had to lose this game. Fortunately, the team with the better shot at a deep run came out on top.
VCU jumped on the Gaels early, taking advantage of a shaky start from Saint Mary’s to build a 7-2 lead. The veteran Gaels responded with a 7-0 run of their own and from there, the two teams traded baskets. But from the midway point of the first half it was all Gaels.
A Landale layup at the 9:24 mark gave Saint Mary’s a one-point lead. That was the start of a 14-2 run, including back-to-back Calvin Hermanson (16 points) threes that blew the game open.
Saint Mary’s methodically sliced and diced the Rams’ defense and extended the lead to as many as 17 points.
In the second half though, the Gaels’ scoring rate decreased and the Rams climbed back into it. Saint Mary’s point guard Joe Rahon (16 points) picked up his fourth foul during a Rams spurt.
The Rams offense came alive, and with the WCC Defensive Player of the Year on the bench, they pulled almost all the way back. Midway through the second, a pair of Jonathan Williams (five points) free throws cut the Gaels’ lead to two points.
Randy Bennett had little choice but to put the Boston College transfer back into the game.
Lewis scored 22 of his 30 points in the second half, but with 4:53 left he went to the locker room after getting tangled up with Saint Mary’s Emmett Naar (13 points, 6 assists).
At that point, it was an eight point game. His absence was short-lived, but perhaps fortunate for him. If only because he didn’t have to watch this knockout blow.
CALVIN HERMANSON FROM THE TOP ROPE pic.twitter.com/We9y8fpllY— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 17, 2017
Saint Mary’s lead was back in double-digits.
VCU’s season ends at 26-9. Saint Mary’s, now 29-4, awaits the winner of No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 15 North Dakota.