SAN DIEGO (AP)—Another ranking, another loss for Saint Mary’s.
For the second time this season the Gaels lost in their first game after moving into The Associated Press’ Top 25.
Brandon Johnson scored 25 points and Gyno Pomare added 20 to lead San Diego to a 63-55 victory over No. 21 Saint Mary’s on Monday night, hours after the Gaels moved into the poll.
Saint Mary’s (17-3, 4-1 West Coast Conference) lost at Southern Illinois 71-56 on Dec. 11, the day after the then-No. 24 Gaels moved into the poll for the first time since March 1989.
Coach Randy Bennett had two reasons for his team having its five-game winning streak snapped and dropping to 0-2 in its first games after reaching the Top 25.
“Those are two of the best players in the league and they played like it tonight,” Bennett said about Johnson and Pomare.
They combined to score the first 14 points of the second half for the Toreros (11-11, 4-1) as they erased a 29-24 halftime deficit. Johnson also keyed San Diego’s 10-0 run that gave the Toreros a 58-48 lead with 1:54 left in the game.
“(Coach Bill Grier) pointed me out at halftime and told me I needed to come with it,” Johnson said.
After getting the deciding run started with a 3-pointer, Johnson added another 3, and ended the spurt with a reverse layup.
“The first half he was trying to do too much,” Grier said. “Our offense was shutting down when the ball hit his hands. When he gets going like that, he’s pretty much hard to stop.”
Patrick Mills led the Gaels with 13 points and Omar Samhan added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Toreros’ second-half surge was fueled by 66.7 percent shooting from the field and a defense that limited Saint Mary’s to just 33.3 percent shooting. Many of San Diego’s baskets came off its defensive pressure that led to easy points.
“I thought we came out there with a lot of stops early and played off of that,” Pomare said.
San Diego trailed 29-18 with 2:35 left in the first half when Pomare scored on three straight possessions to cut the halftime deficit to 29-24.
Johnson’s fastbreak basket 7 1/2 minutes into the second half gave San Diego a 38-35 lead, which it surrendered just once the rest of the way.
“We didn’t do a good job on Brandon,” said Gaels guard Todd Golden, who finished with nine points on three 3-pointers in the second half.
San Diego’s victory was just its third over a Top 25 opponent in the school’s history, and its first since a win over No. 14 UCLA in 2002.