There’s no need to kick a good team when it’s down, and Cal Poly is a good team — or at least was thinking of itself as a good team before entering McKeon Pavilion Monday night.
The Mustangs opened the season at UNLV and at UCLA — and nearly won both games. They erased a 13-point second-half deficit against UNLV and a 15-point deficit against UCLA to put themselves into a position to win. Just before coming to Moraga, Cal Poly handily beat Fresno State, 77-65, even though Fresno was standing at 6-2 with losses only to Oregon in Eugene and Arizona in Tucson. So, Cal Poly was a team with a good resume and an opportunity to cause some damage following the Gaels’ unfortunate loss to Cal on Saturday.
And the Gaels slaughtered them. Again, no need to pile on, but some statistics reflect the lopsidedness of the Saint Mary’s bounce-back win.
Stats such as the Gaels’ 19 three-pointers. That was not only a Saint Mary’s record, but was positively Golden State Warriors-like.
Stats such as 28 assists on 35 made baskets, with only 8 turnovers.
Stats such as a 60.3% field goal percentage, exceeded by a 61.3% three-point percentage.
Total domination from beginning to end, which was a neat 30-point beat-down (93-63) that made the Vegas boys’ 8.5-point spread look laughable.
It’s beginning to look as if this team doesn’t fit any stereotypes or fall into any categories that might have enveloped past Gael teams — playing down to lesser opponents, for instance. They are determinedly resolute and have their eyes firmly on the prize, whatever that may be.
Like other Randy Bennett teams, they also play with purpose, purpose that goes beyond winning. For instance, was it just coincidence that Calvin Hermanson, who could legitimately be criticized for under-performing against Cal-Berkeley, was on fire from the opening tip? Hermanson dropped 5 of 10 three-pointers en route to a personal game high of 23 points, and was primarily responsible for giving his teammates an 11-2 lead in the opening minutes — nine of those 11 points were his on three-for-three long-range shooting.
Hermanson told reporters afterwards that Bennett did, indeed, talk to him post-Berkeley, and summarized the advice as “stay aggressive.” He added that he realizes he can be a difference-maker for the Gaels with his offense, and that thought probably didn’t spring unassisted from his psyche.
Calvin Hermanson shook off a sub-par performance against Cal-Berkeley to score a career-high 23 points against Cal Poly. Photo courtesy of Tod Fierner.
Emmett Naar also starred after going 1-6 in Berkeley. He elevated his three-point percentage back into the 60% range by sinking 4-5 three-pointers, and chipped in 11 assists along the way. Just for good measure, Stefan Gonzalez, also a non-factor against Cal, made five of seven three-pointers to tie Hermanson for long-range honors.
On the flip side, Joe Rahon, who dominated the game against Cal, did not take a shot until midway through the second half. At that point, sensing a temporary lull in the Gaels’ offense, he dropped in back-to-back three pointers to get the fun started again. He finished the night with one more three-pointer and added eight assists, cementing the position of Rahon and Naar as the most deadly back court in the WCC.
Did one of the Cal Poly players look familiar? Luke Miekle, the 6-9 forward who refused to roll over and play dead against the Gaels, was originally a Gonzaga recruit out of Tacoma. After arriving in 2013, he quickly sensed the beginning of a juggernaut in Spokane and removed himself from competing against the likes of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis.
He seems to have found a comfortable home at Cal Poly, and compiled an impressive stat line against the Gaels: 5-8 from the field and 7-8 from the free throw line for 18 points in 22 minutes. He also touched UCLA for 18, so can be expected to help the Mustangs make inroads in the Big West against favorites UC Irvine and Long Beach State.
Next time: An in-depth look at the WCC heading into conference play that begins on Dec. 21 against San Francisco.