Logan Johnson cast aside his shooting slump with a two-game scoring spree that bordered on oblivion.
Johnson will aim for his third straight 30-point effort when No. 17 Saint Mary’s visits San Diego on Thursday night in West Coast Conference play.
Johnson established career highs in both contests, scoring 31 in Thursday’s 78-74 overtime loss to host Loyola Marymount and following up with 34 in Saturday’s 81-64 victory at Portland. He made a combined 23 of 38 field-goal attempts, including 6 of 12 from 3-point range.
The hotter-than-lava play came after Johnson was a frigid 6-of-26 shooting over the Gaels’ previous two games.
Johnson’s performance sparked Saint Mary’s (22-5, 11-1 WCC) out of a slumber against Portland. The Gaels led by just one at halftime but began the second half with 16 straight points en route to winning for the 13th time in their past 14 games.
“We started playing our brand of basketball,” Johnson said afterward. “Started getting stops, consecutive stops, rebounding, not allowing offensive boards. When we do that, when we play to our strengths, there’s not a lot of teams that can have the capacity to keep going and keep trying to attack that. It gets frustrating and you start to see it on their faces.”
Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett noticed from the bench. And he saw his players regain their swagger, too, after they blew a 16-point advantage in the stunning loss to Loyola Marymount.
“Sometimes, you’ve got to make shots,” Bennett said of the strong second half. “We came out and banged a few threes, separated, gave us a little wiggle room. You don’t feel like every possession is for the game.”
Johnson’s hot stretch has moved him into second place on Saint Mary’s with a 13.7 scoring average. Star freshman Aidan Mahaney averages a team-best 15.1.
The Gaels have dominated the series with San Diego by winning the last 17 meetings and 27 of 29. The Toreros last prevailed 61-43 at home on Jan. 30, 2014.
In this season’s first meeting, Mitchell Saxen had 20 points and 10 rebounds as Saint Mary’s rolled to an easy 85-58 home victory on Dec. 29.
San Diego (11-16, 4-9) has lost two straight games and 10 of its last 14 entering the rematch.
The Toreros are also battling injuries, the most painful one involving Stanford transfer Jaiden Delaire, who averaged 9.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in 12 games (10 starts).
Delaire missed seven-plus weeks due to a thumb injury and returned for a game against Portland on Feb. 2. But he broke his foot during the 80-61 home loss and will miss the rest of the season.
Eric Williams Jr. , who is third on the club with a 14.5 scoring average and the leader in rebounding (9.5), has missed the past three games with his own foot injury.
Marcellus Earlington leads the Toreros in scoring (17.6) and Jase Townsend ranks second at 15.8. Townsend established season bests of 34 points and seven 3-pointers in Saturday’s 99-94 road loss at Pacific.
Earlington scored 15 points against Pacific after recording at least 20 in each of the previous seven outings.
“(Earlington) is central to what we’re doing offensively because he has versatility,” Toreros coach Steve Lavin told the San Francisco Chronicle. “He can drive slower-footed frontcourt players to the hoop using the dribble … but he can play with his back to the basket against smaller players.”
Earlington scored a season-low four points on 2-of-10 shooting in the late December loss to Saint Mary’s.
–Field Level Media