Berkeley, CA – After losing back to back games to fall out of the top 25, Saint Mary’s (6-2) rebounded Saturday night to beat Cal (3-5) 74-63 in Berkeley. The Gaels were lead by sophomore Jordan Ford and senior Calvin Hermanson, who scored 17 and 22 points respectively. Saint Mary’s jumped out to a 10-1 lead, Cal tied it at 22-22, but never took the lead, as Saint Mary’s went on to lead by double digits the rest of the way.
Saint Mary’s dictated the tempo, stifling Cal’s perimeter play defensively with aggressive pick and roll hedging and created great looks on the offensive end. Cal tried to play zone and man but neither defense was aggressive enough stop Saint Mary’s great use of motion and patience. Cal’s backcourt of Don Coleman and Darius McNeill combined for 11 points on 4-of-23 shooting. The Bears’ lone advantage was on the interior, as Marcus Lee outdueled Saint Mary’s big man, Jock Landale, to score a season high 23 points. Nick Hamilton also gave the Bears good minutes of the bench to score 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting.
The Gaels’ Emmett Naar had an up and down game as the team’s floor general. Naar entered the game second in the nation in assists per game and had eight assists tonight, with four turnovers. Naar’s deep 3-pointer (pictured) with 6:12 to go in the second half put the Gaels up 68-55, effectively sealing the game. He does a great job facilitating the ball, controlling the offense and running one of the better two man pick and roll games in the country with Landale. Naar knows how to use his body cleverly despite his average athleticism.
Ford had his best game of the season. After closing the first half with two isolation drives by Cal guards and finishes over 7 footers, Marcus Lee and Kingsley Okoroh, Saint Mary’s consistently went back to him in the second half. Ford, standing at a slight frame of 6-1, 160, continually tortured Cal attacking off the dribble. He has a good rhythm and feel for the game, excellent ball handling skills, and exceptional touch around the rim. He also picked up Cal’s McNeill full-court and prevented him from being effective. Ford is Saint Mary’s lone guy who can create shots for himself at a high level. He has the pure basketball skill to be a late blooming prospect once he develops his strength, speed and quickness.
Cal’s Lee excelled as their biggest player on the court. With Cal’s perimeter play attacking poorly, they relied on Lee for the majority of their offense. Lee showed flashes of nice post play, including a sweep and spin post move and a left hand finish, but his face up game still needs a lot of work. His lack of strength for a senior is a question mark and he could be a more dominant force on the glass with a more aggressive attitude. That said, he did show some fire egging on his teammates defensively and the ability to deliver passes out of the low post. He took advantage of Landale’s lack of athleticism, which is no small feat as Landale is one of the better big men in the country. Lee has the potential to play in Europe as a rim protector and low post scorer if he can develop his skills and work on his strength. His production remains inconsistent.
Hermanson scored 19 of his 22 points in the half and shot 4-of-7 from 3-PT range. He knows how to run the baseline vs. a zone and where to relocate for shots after dribble penetration. He was comfortable driving against inferior bench players and using his physicality when he needed. His ability to create shots for himself and others still leaves more to be desired. He has the possibility of being a 3 and D guy in Europe.
Cal freshman McNeill had one of his worst nights of his young career. He let Saint Mary’s dictate his spots and didn’t seem comfortable creating offense. On defense, he continually let Ford drive by him. He has a lot of growing to do if he will be considered as a prospect.
Saint Mary’s will start a six-game home-stand vs. Seattle on Monday while Cal gets a chance to rebound at home vs. Central Arkansas Wednesday.
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