MORAGA, Calif. (AP)Logan Johnson scored 27 points and Aidan Mahaney delivered once again in the second half to lead No. 17 Saint Mary’s to a 71-65 victory over BYU on Saturday night for the Gaels’ 15th win in 16 games.
Mahaney scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and Mitchell Saxen added 13. The Gaels (24-5, 13-1 West Coast Conference) won their 16th straight conference home game to maintain a one-game lead over Gonzaga in the standings.
”I was a little nervous about this game being a home game, late in the season. We needed it,” coach Randy Bennett said. ”We needed it for a lot of reasons. Just essentially we needed just this game. It counts as one. It was an important game.”
Fousseyni Traore scored 16 points to lead the Cougars (16-14, 6-9). BYU has lost four straight and was swept in the season series by the Gaels.
Mahaney hit the game-winner in the closing seconds of a 57-56 win at BYU three weeks ago. He stepped up again in the second half of the rematch.
With the Gaels leading by two early in the second half, Mahaney got a steal and assist on Johnson’s fast-break basket to start the key sequence. He then hit a step-back 3-pointer and two more free throws to build a 50-41 lead.
The Cougars then cut a 13-point deficit to 63-60 on a 3-pointer by Dallin Hall just before the shot clock expired with about four minutes left.
Hall missed two 3-pointers that could have tied the game before Traore’s layup cut it to 63-62 with two minutes left.
Johnson answered with a layup at the other end for Saint Mary’s and Mahaney put the game away with a 3-pointer with 46.8 seconds to play to give the Gaels the win in the final regular-season meeting between the teams before BYU leaves for the Big 12 next season.
Johnson bounced back from a two-point night at San Diego on Thursday to score at least 27 for the third time in four games.
”I try to pick my spots and I felt like I wasn’t being myself in San Diego,” Johnson said. ”It’s always a goal to be more aggressive. I do a great job of scoring in transition and my teammates do a great job of finding me in transition. So whenever I can find those gaps and be aggressive and play my brand of basketball, which my teammates and coaches encourage me to do, there’s no stopping or telling what can happen.”
Johnson scored 14 points in the first half – mostly on drives – and Saint Mary’s led 33-27 at the break.
BYU: The Cougars will be glad to be done with their annual trip to Saint Mary’s after falling to 3-11 all-time here. BYU is 10-17 against the Gaels since joining the WCC in the 2011-12 season. The Cougars have won more than 70% of the games against every other team in the conference other than Gonzaga.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels maintained their one-game lead over Gonzaga in the race for the regular-season conference title. Saint Mary’s can clinch its first outright WCC title since 2012 by beating the Bulldogs next Saturday night on the road.
”It’s all about taking it piece by piece, possession by possession and compartmentalizing each play,” Johnson said. ”You can’t overall think about the next game or what’s coming around the corner.”
BYU: Hosts San Francisco on Saturday night.
Saint Mary’s: Hosts Pacific on Thursday night.
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