Fullerton, Calif., November 23, 2017 – It’s one thing to land on the John R. Wooden Award preseason top 50 list. It’s another to step on the court on the opening day of the Wooden Legacy and show your stuff.
Jock Landale of Saint Mary’s and Yante Maten of Georgia got their chance Thursday for their respective schools. Both of their teams scored victories, and both played key roles. One was just a little quieter than the other.
It was the 6-foot-11 Landale, a senior from Australia, who took his game over from the start, leading No. 21 Saint Mary’s to an 89-71 win over Harvard. Landale scored 15 of his game-high 26 points in the first half, when the Gaels built a 28-point lead. He also had seven rebounds, and Saint Mary’s is now 34-3 when Landale grabs at least seven rebounds.
“Jock usually plays well, and he really played well today,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “He finished, made some key buckets when we needed them, and he did a pretty good job defensively, too.
“We’re always going to play through him. If we’re not, we’re not very smart. Playing through Jock in the post, you usually have a mismatch there in most games.”
Or as point guard Emmett Naar put it: “Jock was a beast in there, which just clears everything out for us.”
He picked up a fan from the Ivy League.
“He’s one of the better post players in the country,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “He’s very savvy, he’s crafty in terms of his ability to find cutters. He uses angles very well, shot fakes, he’s got the total package for a low post guys and you can see what he was able to do at the foul line. I think he might be one of the weakest free throw shooters on the team, but he went 12-for-13.
“There’s not a lot of hole in their team or their game and he’s one of those guys who’s a security blanket for them. He’s an outstanding player.”
Later, Maten took the court with the Bulldogs in their 64-57 win over Cal State Fullerton and promptly disappeared. After 10 1/ 2 minutes, he had taken two shots, made one, but picked up his second foul and took his two points to the bench for the rest of the half.
The 6-foot-8 senior was still quiet for the much of the second half as Georgia struggled with Cal State Fullerton on the Titans’ home court. Certainly, many in the crowd had to be wondering what had become of the player who is the preseason pick as SEC Player of the Year.
And suddenly, Fullerton tied the game at 43-43. And Maten continued to struggle, getting to the free throw line with 6:25 left and missing a free throw. He made the second and things changed.
The Bulldogs never lost the lead after that free throw, and they found their man. Maten hit two more free throws with 5:31 left to give Georgia a 46-43 lead, but that just served as a warmup. With 3:18 left, he connected on a jumper from straightaway, then a minute later connected on a jump hook from the baseline while being fouled. He hit the free throw.
With 1:40 left, his 3-pointer from the top of the key gave UGA some breathing room with a six-point lead, then he helped put the game away with two free throws in the final minute that gave the Bulldogs a 10-point lead.
“Maten played very impatiently in the first half, which led him to some bad plays,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We just tried to talk about getting back to our character and play within ourselves.
“The one thing we did say at the half is we have to get Yante involved in the game. He must stay out of foul trouble and he did his part, and we got him the ball some in the second half. In the first half he was impatient, picked up a couple fouls which put him on the pine. In the second half, he played with more poise, he played with the poise of a senior down the stretch and we did a better job of getting him involved.”
If Georgia and Saint Mary’s win their games Saturday, it will set up a Wooden legacy matchup for the tournament title on Sunday.