MORAGA, Calif. (AP) -Omar Samhan scored 20 points, Ben Allen added 14 points and 10 rebounds and Saint Mary's beat San Diego 71-56 on Thursday night.
Mickey McConnell also had 14 points for the Gaels (17-3, 4-1 West Coast Conference), who went on a 23-2 run early in the first half, then coasted to their fourth win in five games over the Toreros.
Chris Manresa had 13 points and nine rebounds for San Diego (8-13, 1-4), which lost its fourth straight since opening the conference season with a win over Santa Clara.
The win moved Saint Mary's into second place in the WCC, a half-game ahead of Pepperdine. The Waves, who lost to No. 15 Gonzaga 91-84 earlier Thursday, host the Gaels on Jan. 28 in a key matchup nearing the midway point of the conference schedule.
The top two teams in the WCC receive byes into the semifinals of the conference tournament. Gonzaga has a clear edge for one of the two while Saint Mary's and Pepperdine are the front-runners for the other spot.
The Gaels, who swept the Toreros last season, made it three straight despite a shaky second half when Saint Mary's scored only 28 points and committed 12 of its season-high 19 turnovers.
After shooting 68.0 percent from the floor before halftime, the Gaels went just 7-for-17 and were outrebounded 19-18 in the second half, but still managed to beat the struggling Toreros.
Saint Mary's appeared headed for a blowout early after building an 18-point lead midway through the first half. Samhan had 10 points as part of a 23-2 run and the Gaels, who forced nine early turnovers, made 12 of their first 14 shots and didn't allow San Diego to score on consecutive trips down the floor until six minutes remained in the half.
Samhan, the WCC leader in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, had 16 points in the first half while the Gaels shot 68 percent from the floor (17-of-25) and built a 43-24 halftime lead.
San Diego, which hasn't won since beating Santa Clara 55-46 on Jan. 8, trailed by as much as 23 in the second half and remained mired in a monthlong offensive slump. The Toreros have been held to 56 points or fewer in four of their last five games and didn't have a player reach double figures against Saint Mary's until Chris Lewis' layup with 3:13 remaining cut the Gaels' lead to 68-52.
Brandon Johnson and DeJon Jackson, San Diego's two leading scorers, were held to eight points apiece while going a combined 6-for-20 from the floor.
Lewis finished with 11 points and six rebounds for San Diego.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved