The search for the best triumvirate in college basketball might begin and end at Saint Mary’s, where seniors Emmett Naar, Calvin Hermanson and Jock Landale could lead the 22nd-ranked Gaels deep into the postseason. The trio looks to continue its hot start Wednesday against visiting Cal State Fullerton, which was picked to finish third in the Big West preseason media poll.
Naar recorded game highs of 22 points and five assists in Monday’s 92-74 victory over New Mexico State as the Gaels scored 46 points in the paint and shot 55 percent, including 7-for-14 from 3-point range. “To beat Saint Mary’s, with as well-coached as they are and as well-schooled as they are, you are going to have to play really, really good,” New Mexico State coach Chris Jans told reporters. “We felt like we had a chance. They were just too much in the end.” A preseason favorite for West Coast Conference Player of the Year, Landale registered 20 points and 10 rebounds in the win while Hermanson added 16 points on 5-for-7 shooting. The Gaels are concluding their three-game homestand against Cal State Fullerton, which opened with an 84-42 loss at USC on Friday.
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ABOUT CAL STATE FULLERTON (0-1): The Titans are led by sophomore forward Jackson Rowe, who was named to the Six-Player Preseason All-Big West Team and registered 12 points and eight rebounds in the loss to USC. Junior guard Khalil Ahmad added nine points and six rebounds, but the Titans never led in the contest and shot 23.3 percent while committing 21 turnovers. Junior guard Kyle Allman, who averaged 10.2 points last season, will look to bounce back after missing 10 of his 11 shots in the season opener.
ABOUT SAINT MARY’S (2-0): The Titans face a difficult matchup against the 6-11, 255-pound Landale, who recorded 17 double-doubles last season and ranks as one of the top big men in the country. Hermanson has opened the season on a tear, averaging 20 points while shooting 14-for-17, including 6-for-9 from 3-point range. Sophomore guard Tanner Krebs, one of six Australians on the roster, set a career high with eight rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench against New Mexico State.
1. The all-time series is tied at five wins apiece, but Saint Mary’s has captured the last three meetings.
2. Cal State Fullerton has lost seven consecutive road games against non-conference opponents.
3. Saint Mary’s is 27-1 when leading at halftime since the beginning of last season.
PREDICTION: Saint Mary’s 86, Cal State Fullerton 67