MORAGA -- It wasn't a thing of beauty, but Saint Mary's College men's basketball coach Randy Bennett can live with it.

The Gaels equaled the school record for consecutive wins to begin a season with a 59-44 thumping of American University on Thursday night at McKeon Pavilion, but they turned the ball over 18 times and were held to a season-low point total.

"If we can score 59 points and win, then we're doing something right," Bennett said. "That's a sign of a team that knows how to win."

Saint Mary's (9-0) matched the season-opening winning streak of the 1988-89 Gaels team, out-rebounding the Eagles (3-6) from Washington, D.C. 37-19.

Overall, it was a mixed bag for the Gaels.

Brad Waldow, a 6-foot-9 junior forward, had another well-rounded effort, with a game-high 17 points to go with five rebounds and three assists. Garrett Jackson, a junior transfer from USC and a "beast on the boards," according to Bennett, had a game-high 10 rebounds. Beau Levesque added 10 points.

"The effort was pretty good, but I didn't think we played great," Bennett said. "I don't think they thought they played great, either. It was kind of a grindy game. For us, a lot of turnovers, but we did a good job defensively."

Saint Mary's is set to leave early Friday to compete in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. They open against South Carolina on Sunday.


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Waldow said the Gaels talked after the game, calling the effort was a "laid egg. We got this one bad game out of us, and now we're ready to go to Hawaii," he said.

Bennett wouldn't go as far as Waldow in his harsh assessment.

"I wouldn't say we laid an egg," Bennett said. "Our effort was good, but they make you play that way the way they play defensively."

American was paced by Darius Gardner and Kyle Kager, who each had 13 points. The Eagles will complete their two-game West Coast trip against USF at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

The Gaels shot 53.7 percent from the floor overall but committed 10 turnovers in the first half alone.

In the workmanlike effort, Saint Mary's forged to a 30-24 halftime lead with a season-low output for a first half.

But they quickly increased the margin to 42-29, as Waldow had five points and a nifty assist on a Stephen Holt 3-pointer during the run.

A 3-point goal by guard Kerry Carter upped the lead to 16 points with 11:36 left, and the Gaels cruised from there.

Saint Mary's led 14-9 after a dunk by Jackson. The lead was 17-9 on a Holt 3-pointer off a Carter assist. Levesque nailed a 3-pointer with 8:34 left in the half to make it 20-13. A strong drive and left-handed layup by James Walker III on a three-point play made it 25-18.

Waldow, who is averaging a team-high 17.6 points a game, led the Gaels in the first half with eight points.

Saint Mary's was coming off an impressive 82-74 win at Boise State, their first road game of the season, when they were 12 for 23 from 3-point range. They snapped the Broncos' run of 26 consecutive nonconference wins at home.