MORAGA, Calif. -- The Saint Mary's men's basketball team got something Wednesday against Pacific that teams rarely get -- a second chance.
The Gaels weren't going to let opportunity escape
them, as they used an outstanding half of defense to establish control
en route to a 74-46 victory over the Tigers at McKeon Pavilion.
Beau Levesque led the way for Saint Mary's (8-2), tying his career high with 18 points. Matthew Dellavedova added 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Mitchell Young scored 11 and Jorden Page added 10 as the Gaels finished with four players in double figures.
Khalil Kelley led Pacific (5-6) with 11 points. Lorenzo McCloud added 10 for the Tigers.
A 76-66 loss to West Coast Conference
member-in-waiting Pacific at the DIRECTV Classic in November left Saint
Mary's hungry for a little revenge as the Tigers came to Moraga looking
to duplicate that effort.
"Last game, their (forwards) combined for a lot of buckets," Dellavedova said. "I think Mitch and Beau really relished the challenge to get after their 4 men and take it as their personal job to stop them. I think they both did a great job tonight, defending and rebounding and playing physical and tough like we needed them to play."
To make sure no repeat was in the cards, the Gaels
took a 36-17 lead into halftime. The advantage came thanks to some
impressive work at the defensive end, timely shooting, and the familiar
all-around play of Dellavedova.
Trailing 4-0 early, Saint Mary's (8-2) buckled down
defensively to take control. Pacific wouldn't score again from the field
until the Gaels had run off the next 15 points.
The stretch spanned just over 10 minutes, and when Sama Taku's floater fell with 8:19 left in the half, Saint Mary's led 15-7.
"Defensively, guys were very disciplined and we sustained it for a long time," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "I think they got one 3 for the night. That was big."
And, as the Gaels built a lead, Dellavedova wasn't the
one that had to do the scoring. He didn't score a bucket until there
was 7:59 left in the half, with his jumper making the score 17-7.
The first half also provided several opportunities for
Saint Mary's to bring the crowd to a boil. One came early in the half,
when Mitchell Young threw down a thunderous dunk to ignite the Gaels faithful.
"I thought we had a great effort on the boards all the way around," Bennett said. "Mitch Young was big on the boards. (Jordan) Giusti got us some big offensive boards. Brad (Waldow) was in there too."
Another came courtesy of freshman guard Jordan Giusti.
The product of San Ramon Valley High overplayed a pass near half court,
kept his composure as he fought for position, came away with the ball
and found Jorden Page for an open baseline jumper that Page converted.
The final big moment of the first half came at the
end, as Dellavedova controlled the action with time winding down. He
came off a screen, found a wide open Beau Levesque in the corner, and Levesque nailed the open 3-pointer to give the Gaels a 19-point lead at the break.
"Then I thought we really did a nice job of taking care of the ball," Bennett said. "We
didn't shoot great from 3, we didn't shoot it great from 2. We shot it
decent. I thought we took decent shots, but we valued the ball and took
care of it."
Pacific certainly wasn't going
to go away quietly. Two free throws by Ross Rivera capped a 7-0 run,
making it 46-32 Saint Mary's with just over 13 minutes to play.
The Gaels wouldn't let that momentum simmer for long. Layups by Brad Waldow
and Page, followed by back to back 3-pointers from Dellavedova forced
Pacific to call time out with 10:17 remaining and the Gaels up 56-32.
The punctuation came with 5:37 left to play when
Dellavedova, trapped in the corner with the shot clock winding down,
spun away from his defender to hit an off balance 3-pointer. The
unbelievable shot brought the score to 65-39 in favor of the Gaels.
Saint Mary's now hits the road, as the Gaels will
travel to the state of Iowa for the second time this month to take on
Northern Iowa on Saturday at noon (PST). The game will not be televised,
but live audio will be available on SMCGaels.com.
The Gaels return to McKeon Pavilion on Dec. 27 to take
on Rhode Island at 7 p.m. Tickets for that game, as well as the Dec. 30
contest against Yale and Dec. 31 showdown with Harvard, are available
by clicking the Tickets link on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC
Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx (4689).