DES MOINES, Iowa -- Like most of the Gaels' opposition this season, Drake entered tonight's game against Saint Mary's hoping to limit the impact of Matthew Dellavedova.
Fortunately for the Gaels, it didn't work.
Dellavedova scored a game-high 31 points to lead the Gaels to their sixth win in eight games with an 88-73 victory over the Bulldogs in front of 3,410 at the Knapp Center.
Saint Mary's improves to 6-2 on the season, while Drake falls to 3-4.
The Gaels return home Tuesday, Dec. 11 for a 7 p.m. contest against Jackson State in McKeon Pavilion. Tickets are available by visiting the tickets link on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx (4689).
"We played a good team tonight," said SMC head coach Randy Bennett. "Drake had been playing really well. We feel like we beat a really good team on the road. If you would have told me this was how it was going to turn out before the game, I would have taken it. i am a little surprised, to tell you the truth.
"Dellavedova had a tremendous first half. He hit some tough shots. He played a high-high level in the first half. In the second half I thought Walker and Levesque played well. It just seemed like everytime we needed somebody to hit a shot, somebody hit one."
Dellavedova led five Saint Mary's scorers in double-figures in points. Juniors Beau Levesque and James Walker III scored 14, while sophomore Brad Waldow added 12 and Jorden Page scored 10. Walker also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and had five steals.
Sophomore Jeremy Jeffers led the Bulldogs with 16 points, while center Seth VanDeest scored 15 before fouling out of the game.
The Gaels started the game strong, outscoring the home side 14-8 in the first eight minutes, largely due to the strength of a defensive effort that limited Drake to just 28 percent shooting during that early stretch.
Midway through the first half, Beau Levesque drove the lane for a dunk, then James Walker III connected on a 3-pointer give the Gaels a 12-point, 32-20 lead and caused Drake coach Mark Phelps to call a timeout. Gary Ricks, Jr. snapped the Gaels' run with a crowd-pleasing 3-pointer then Walker drew a charge on Micah Mason on the other end of the floor.
After that, the Gaels extended their lead to 14 points when Dellavedova enjoyed a shooter's bounce on a 3-pointer then hit a stepback baseline jumper to extend the lead to 39-25. The All-America candidate scored 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting in the first half to lead all scorers.
Saint Mary's extended its lead in the second half, but not without a couple of frantic charges by the Bulldogs.
Drake came out in the second half and cut the Gaels' lead to eight points on a 3-point field goal by Micah Mason with 14:31 left on the clock. Less than a minute later a VanDeest free throw cut it to seven at 52-45 before Saint Mary's went on a 12-1 run to push the lead back to 18 points with 11:29 on the clock.
The Bulldogs then went on another run over the next couple of minutes, cutting the lead back to 10 but that was as close as it would get. Dellavedova hit a 3-pointer with 2:13 left to give the Gaels their largest lead of the game at 85-65 with 2:13 remaining.