MORAGA, Calif. – Rob Jones had 18 points and 13 rebounds in his first game against his former team and No. 22 Saint Mary's celebrated its first ranking in nearly two years with a 67-56 victory over San Diego on Wednesday night.
Mickey McConnell scored 17 points and Matthew Dellavedova added 12 to help coach Randy Bennett earn his 200th career win as the Gaels (17-2, 5-0 West Coast Conference) won their 11th straight game. Saint Mary's is ranked for the first time since also being No. 22 on Jan. 26, 2009.
Darian Norris scored 14 points and Matt Dorr added 13 for the Toreros (3-16, 0-5), who have lost five straight games.
San Diego scored the first 10 points of the second half, capped by consecutive 3-pointers from Dorr and Ken Rancifer to take its first lead of the game at 33-30. That was part of a 21-2 run going back to late in the first half and forced Bennett to call an early timeout to regroup his team.
But Jones helped spark a 19-3 run that put the game away for the Gaels. He hit two 3-pointers and two other baskets during the run that sent Saint Mary's into the toughest portion of its schedule on a positive note.
Kenton Walker added five points — and shot an airball on a free throw — in the spurt that gave the Gaels their 15th double-digit win this season.
The only two losses for Saint Mary's have come against teams currently ranked in the top 10 — No. 6 San Diego State and No. 9 BYU. But the schedule gets much stiffer for the Gaels, who travel to Vanderbilt for a nonconference game on Saturday before taking their toughest trip of the conference season next week to Gonzaga and Portland.
Jones spent his first two years at San Diego, helping the Toreros reach the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2008. But he left San Diego before last season to move closer to home and eventually landed at Saint Mary's.
His addition has been a major reason behind the Gaels surprising success this season after key big men Omar Samhan and Ben Allen graduated from a team that reached the third round of the NCAA tournament.
He got Saint Mary's started with a layup on the opening possession off a nice feed from Dellavedova. The Gaels led 13-2 by the first media timeout and never trailed in the first half.
The Toreros missed 12 of their first 15 shots from the field, missed eight early free throws — including two front ends of 1-and-1s — and had 10 turnovers and three made shots at one point. Dorr ended a drought of more than 8 minutes without a basket when he hit a jumper with under 4 minutes left in the first half that cut Saint Mary's lead to 28-14.
The Toreros hit four of their next five shots after that and got the deficit down to 30-23 at halftime — the first time they had trailed at the break in a conference game this season.