SAN FRANCISCO -- No. 19 Saint Mary's pulled away in the closing minutes to get past a tough San Francisco team 63-52 on Saturday night, and Gaels coach Randy Bennett was just glad it was over.
It was not because the Gaels (14-1) had to work their tails off to win their eighth straight game and improve to 4-0 in the West Coast Conference. It had more to do with the fact that he had to compete against San Francisco coach Kyle Smith.
"I really don't like playing against my friend," Bennett said. "We go back 25 years."
Bennett and Smith were assistant coaches at San Diego in the mid-1990s, and Smith was later a Saint Mary's assistant under Bennett for nine years.
"It wasn't as weird as I thought it would be," said Smith of facing Bennett for the first time.
Maybe it wasn't weird because the Dons (11-6, 1-3) were very much in the game until the late going, leading by two points with 11:21 left and trailing by one point at the 8:50 mark.
Ronnie Boyce kept San Francisco in the game, scoring 15 of his 19 points in the first 12 minutes of the second half.
But ultimately, the Gaels used the inside game of Jock Landale, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and a quick series of 3-point shots to put the Dons away.
"I think we wore them down on the boards," Bennett said, "and we got better defensively in the second half. Part of our thing is attrition."
The Gaels outrebounded San Francisco 43-27 and limited the Dons to 28.6 percent shooting in the second half.
Dane Pineau came off the bench to contribute 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Gaels, and Joe Rahon had 13 points while playing 40 minutes for the third time in four WCC games.
San Francisco led 28-26 at halftime, thanks to Boyce's driving layup with three seconds left before intermission.
The Dons made just 2 of their first 11 shots of the second half to help the Gaels grab a 36-32 lead with 13:46 left in the game.
The Gaels still led by four before Boyce scored 13 straight San Francisco points. His 3-pointer in the midst of that personal run with 11:18 left put the Dons ahead 42-40.
A three-point play by Boyce at the end of his spurt got the Dons within a point at 48-47 after San Francisco grabbed the lead.
"It was one of those five-minute stretches when you just tip your cap," said Rahon, who was defending Boyce. "He's a really good player."
Smith has seen Boyce do that before.
"He's our point-a-minute guy," Smith said. "He can shoot you in or he can shoot you out."
Boyce cooled off down the stretch and the Gaels kept on coming.
Landale scored six straight points to turn a two-point deficit into a four-point Gaels lead with 9:42 left, and he made a layup with 8:30 remaining to push the margin to three after Boyce cut San Francisco's deficit to 48-47.
Then in a matter of 2:14, Saint Mary's hit three 3-pointers -- two by Tanner Krebs and one by Pineau, who had made only one 3-pointer previously this season. Suddenly it was an 11-point game with 4:42 left.
"It went from a four-point game to a 10-point game like that," said Bennett as he snapped his fingers.
"Down the stretch they broke our back with a couple of threes," said Smith. "I was really impressed with their defense down the stretch."
San Francisco lost three in a row, and the last two came against ranked teams, after the Dons lost to No. 5 Gonzaga at home on Thursday.
But Smith thought his team played better than it did Thursday.
"I thought we competed really well for 34 minutes,'' Smith said.
-- San Francisco's last victory against a ranked opponent was in 2012, when the Dons beat No. 24 Gonzaga 66-65.
-- G Charles Minlend, San Francisco's second-leading scorer, made his first start of the season. G Ronnie Boyce, the Dons' leading scorer, came off the bench.
-- Saint Mary's won 22 of the last 23 games against San Francisco.
-- Saint Mary's next game is on the road against Portland on Thursday, then comes the big game against No. 5 Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., next Saturday.