MORAGA, Calif. (AP) — Saint Mary’s didn’t have much defensive energy early. Once they got it going, the Gaels were hard to stop.
Jordan Ford scored 21 points, Malik Fitts added 12 and No. 18 Saint Mary’s beat Cal Poly 79-48 on Sunday night.
Saint Mary’s (3-1) extended its winning streak over the Mustangs to six games. They Gaels haven’t lost to Cal Poly since Nov. 26, 2006.
After Cal Poly (1-3) opened the game with an 8-0 run, Gaels coach Randy Bennett called a timeout and turned to his reserves.
“There was a concern,” Bennett said. “I didn’t think our guys were — two of our main guys — I didn’t think Ford and Malik were dialed in where they needed to be as far concentration defensively. That’s why I called the timeout. After that, we were pretty good.”
The Gaels outscored their opponent 46-13 the rest of the half.
“We just started locking in on defense,” Fitts said. “The guys off the bench stepped it up and gave us a spark.”
Tuukka Jaakkola scored 13 points to lead Cal Poly.
Matthias Tass had six points for Saint Mary’s, all during an 31-4 run that closed out the first half in which he had two dunks.
“We’re a really electrifying offensively, especially when we move the ball,” Ford said. “I think our potential is really high.”
The Mustangs were facing a Top 25 opponent for the first time since Dec 29, 2015, when the they lost to No. 19 Texas A&M, 82-63. Cal Poly hasn’t beat a Top 25 opponent since upsetting No. 11 UCLA 70-68 on Nov. 25, 2012.
“They’re pretty good and they play hard, but I think our defense kind of broke them,” Bennett said.
Saint Mary’s redshirt sophomore guard Kristers Zoriks, a former U18 Latvian national team member who suffered two ACL injuries in as many years, scored his first six career points.
BESTING THE WEST
The Gaels have won 11 of their last 12 against Big West Conference opponents.
Saint Mary’s had 14 assists, to improve to 3-0 in games in which they registered 10 or more and 18-0 in that department since the start of last season.
Cal Poly is among 13 programs featuring a head coach and son on the same team with (head coach) John and Jamal Smith, and the only team featuring a head coach’s son and nephew (Keith Smith) on the same roster.
Cal Poly: Amid a full-blown rebuild under first-year coach John Smith, to say the Mustangs weren’t quite ready for a ranked opponent would be an understatement.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels took another step forward with their second decisive victory after experiencing a 61-59 upset loss to Winthrop on Nov. 11. But whether they can meet the lofty expectations that came with having four returning starters from a team that last season went to the NCAA tournament remains an open question.
Cal Poly: The Mustangs travel to Omaha, Nebraska, on Friday, to open the Las Vegas Invitational against Creighton. Cal Poly lost to Creighton 65-51 in the only previous meeting between the two teams on Dec. 19, 1956.
Saint Mary’s: Hosts Fresno State on Wednesday at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Wednesday in what will be the Gaels’ toughest opponent since its season opener against Wisconsin.
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