Jock Landale had 18 points and 13 rebounds as seventh-seeded Saint Mary's held on for an 85-77 victory over No. 10 Virginia Commonwealth in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament's West Region on Thursday night.
The Gaels led most of the way, but had to fight to hold on after the VCU defensive pressure started to become too much in the second half.
Joe Rahon and Calvin Hermanson finished with 16 points apiece for Saint Mary's.
JeQuan Lewis paced VCU with 30 points.
Saint Mary's (29-4) took a 46-31 lead into halftime thanks to a 23-6 run highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers from Hermanson. The Gaels shot 64 percent in the first half and hit 4 of 9 from behind the arc as VCU (26-9) struggled to disrupt their halfcourt offense. On top of that, Saint Mary's was the team able to get out on the break and score in transition. That's VCU's style of play, but the Rams managed just two fast-break points in the first half.
The next 20 minutes was stark contrast.
Saint Mary's began turning the ball over from VCU's increased pressure, which led to fast-break opportunities for the Rams. Once it began scoring more consistently, VCU was able to set up its vaunted press and cause havoc.
The Gaels' offense that was so crisp in the first half struggled to find rhythm after the break, but VCU kept fouling and sending them to the line for free points. The freebies kept the Rams from getting over the hump and their last lead was at 18-17.