MORAGA, Calif. (AP) — Emmett Naar will have the basketball in his hands more often this season as the full-time point guard for No. 21 Saint Mary's. He insists that doesn't mean he will look to score more. However, the Australian native saw openings against New Mexico State on Monday night and took advantage.
MORAGA, Calif. (AP) — Emmett Naar will have the basketball in his hands more often this season as the full-time point guard for No. 21 Saint Mary's. He insists that doesn't mean he will look to score more.
However, the Australian native saw openings against New Mexico State on Monday night and took advantage.
Naar scored 22 points, Jock Landale added 20 points and 10 rebounds, and the Gaels pulled away to beat the Aggies 92-74.
"Now that I'm playing point guard a bit more, the ball's in my hands so there's more opportunities," said Naar, who shared ball handling responsibilities last year with Joe Rahon. "I was just trying to read the game. Today they were trying to make me score, so it's going to be game by game."
Gaels coach Randy Bennett said Naar — No. 2 on the school's career assist chart — is healthier this season after struggling with a sore knee much of last year.
"He came in last year gimpy and we just had to play him. We never had a chance to get him healthy," Bennett said. "He's a different athlete this year than he was last year."
Calvin Hermanson added 16 for Saint Mary's (2-0), which trailed by eight points in the first half when Landale was limited by two early fouls. But the senior center scored 12 points in the second half.
"I've got to be smarter about how I handle the fouls," Landale said. We need to have me out on the floor. There were a couple (fouls) that were pretty silly."
Zach Lofton, a graduate transfer from Texas Southern, followed his 25-point debut against East Central, with 18 points to lead the Aggies (1-1). Al Harris and Eli Chuha contributed 13 points each as New Mexico State shot 7 for 10 on 3-pointers in the first half but just 1 for 9 after the break.
"When you play a team like Saint Mary's on the road, you have to make shots, you have to make 3's. We made 'em enough early and got some confidence going," first-year New Mexico State coach Chris Jans said. "In the second half the 3's were a little short."
Naar scored 13 points in the first half.
Jans said the Aggies decided to focus defensively on the Gaels' 3-point shooters, and there was a price to pay.
"We decided to really put the onus on Naar and Landale," Jans said. "We probably made a mistake — probably should have had a bigger guard on Naar."
New Mexico State: The Aggies' only road game before Thanksgiving provided them just the challenge they wanted. Saint Mary's returns three starters from a team that won 29 games and played in the NCAA tournament, but NMSU battled the Gaels throughout.
Saint Mary's: The Gaels dominate nonconference competition at home (78-8 past 10 seasons), but this was a legitimate test. The Aggies played in the NCAA tournament five of the past six seasons, the exception being 2016 when they nearly knocked off Saint Mary's at Moraga in the opening round of the NIT, falling 58-56.
It's early and the Gaels figure to hold their spot in the Top-25.
New Mexico State: Hosts New Mexico on Friday. The game figures to be more intense than usual because the Lobos are led by Paul Weir, who coached the Aggies last season.
Saint Mary's: Host Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday.