SAN DIEGO — For most of the game, it seemed like it was Jock Landale all by himself against the entire San Diego Toreros team.
The big Australian senior had 34 points and tied his season high with 18 rebounds — he had a double-double by halftime — and the No. 13 Saint Mary’s Gaels held off USD 65-62 on Saturday night to extend their school-record winning streak to 18.
One of Landale’s biggest shots of the night came when he powered into the key for a layup with one minute left to help keep the rallying Toreros just at arm’s length.
“There’s very few of those guys that you can actually just keep going to in the post, they’re not going to double, they’re going to make him beat them,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “He can do it.”
The Gaels (23-2, 12-0 West Coast Conference) have the nation’s second-longest winning string. No. 3 Purdue won its 19th straight on Saturday, 78-76 in overtime at Rutgers.
“I don’t care about 18 straight but it’s a great win,” Bennett said. “When league started, we were like, ‘This is going to be a tough one to get done down in San Diego because they’re good. Lamont’s doing a great job.”
USD coach Lamont Smith was impressed with the 6-foot-11 Landale.
“We thought if we could let Landale get 100 and lock up the rest of the guys we may give ourselves a chance,” Smith joked. “And he’s a load. He’s hard to guard. He did everything he could to keep his team in the game and then some, but our guys kept battling and battling. We’re not into moral victories, but our guys, if they’re going to battle like that I’ll sleep well at night.”
The Gaels led 36-24 at halftime and continued to lead by double digits until the Toreros slowly closed the gap late in the game.
Tyler Williams hit three 3-pointers and Isaiah Wright hit two 3s down the stretch for USD (15-9, 6-6).
Landale powered into the key for a layup and Jordan Ford hit a runner on the baseline, both shots keeping the Gaels’ lead at four points.
The closest USD got was 63-62 on Wright’s 3-pointer with 11.2 seconds left. Emmett Naar was fouled and made both shots. Wright missed a 3 just before the buzzer and Calvin Hermanson rebounded.
Landale had his 16th double-double of the season. He was three points shy of his season-high.
The only other Gaels player in double figures was Naar with 11. Naar also committed nine turnovers.
Isaiah Pineiro scored 24 points, Williams 12 and Wright 10 for USD.
“They hit some tough shots,” Bennett said of the Toreros. “Defensively in the first half we were good. The second half they got it going. They must have hit six or seven 3s in the second half. We usually give up like five in a game. They played well. I would have liked us to defend better down the stretch.”
Saint Mary’s trailed 14-9 when it went on a 17-1 run that included nine points by Landale, including a jumper to start the run and a 3-pointer. Hermanson hit a jumper with 5:21 left before halftime to give the Gaels a 26-15 lead.
USD had gone cold, missing 12 straight shots before Pineiro made a jumper with 2 ½ minutes before halftime.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels haven’t lost since Nov. 26, when they were defeated 83-81 in overtime by Georgia in the Wooden Legacy in Fullerton.
San Diego: The scrappy, undermanned Toreros played the Gaels tough early and had leads of 11-5 and 14-9. But Landale proved to be too much. So, No. 14 remains the highest-ranked team USD has ever beaten, when it won at UCLA in overtime on Nov. 26, 2002.
Saint Mary’s visits Loyola Marymount on Thursday night.
San Diego visits Pepperdine on Thursday night.