San Diego, CA - Saint Mary's returned to its winnings ways by posting a 61-49 West Coast Conference win over San Diego from the Jenny Craig Pavilion on Thursday night. The Gaels got a game-high 16 points from Ben Allen, to improve to 22-5 overall and 9-3 in WCC play, remaining in second place in the conference standings.
Saint Mary's was coming off a two-game road-losing streak, which was the longest losing streak of the season for the Gaels, and needed a win over a gritty San Diego (9-19/2-10) squad to have a chance to capture their first WCC regular season title since 1997.
The Gaels had four players score in double figures en route to the win, and are now one game behind Gonzaga in the conference standings, following the Bulldogs' 78-72 loss at Loyola Marymount on Thursday.
Following Allen's 16-point game, where he went 5-for-7 from the field, 2-for-3 from 3-point land, and 4-for-4 from the free throw line, Mickey McConnell added 13 points and four assists. Matthew Dellavedova had 12 points, six rebounds and a game-high six assists, play 39 minutes.
Omar Samhan notched his seventh straight double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, bringing his season total to 17 and his career total to 40. Samhan ranks fourth in the nation in double-doubles this season.
McConnell was also key to the success of the team defensively, as he held San Diego's leading scorer Brandon Johnson to 6-of-15 shooting from the floor and 0-for-5 shooting from 3-point land. Johnson did finish the game with a team-high 15 points, and was the only Toreros player to score in double figures.
After allowing USD to shoot 40 percent (4-10) from 3-point land in the first half, the Gaels defense clamped down, holding the Toreros to 1-of-8 shooting from behind the arc in the second half, as San Diego finished the game shooting 28 percent from long range. The Gaels also outrebounded the Toreros 39-25.
SMC opened a 10-5 lead following a McConnell jumper, but San Diego responded by scoring the next six points to take an 11-10 lead. The Gaels answered by scoring eight straight points for a seven-point lead with 11:10 left in the first half. USD cut the SMC lead to 21-19 on a Cameron Miles three, but a quick 5-0 burst by the Gaels had the advantage back to seven points (26-19). The Toreros ended the first half by outscoring the Gaels 10-5 run over the final three minutes to trail by two (31-29) at halftime.
The halftime deficit would be as close at the Toreros got, as Saint Mary's extended its lead to double digits when Samhan converted a 3-point play for a 48-37 SMC lead with 9:23 remaining. After a missed jumper by Johnson, Dellavedova connected on his second 3-pointer of the game to give the Gaels their biggest lead of the game at 14 points (51-37) with 7:46 left to play.
USD responded with a quick 6-0 run, but SMC answered with a 6-2 spurt to keep the lead in double figures with five minutes remaining. The lead held in double figures the remainder of the game.
Saint Mary's returns to action on Thursday, February 25 with a 7 p.m. game against the Pepperdine Waves from McKeon Pavilion.