MORAGA, Calif. -- Stephen Holt made his first home game since mid-November a good one, as the Saint Mary's guard scored 17 points to help lead the Gaels men's basketball team to a 82-59 win over Rhode Island on Thursday.
Holt, who hadn't played in McKeon Pavilion since Nov. 18, also added six rebounds for Saint Mary's (9-3) in the win. Matthew Dellavedova added a double-double, finishing with 12 points and 10 assists.
Xavier Munford led Rhode Island (4-8) with 20 points.
The real stat of the game came in the paint, where Saint Mary's outrebounded Rhode Island 42-17 with a tremendous effort up front. The Gaels owned a 27-8 advantage on the glass in the first half alone.
Holt's return buoyed the Gaels early, as the native of Portland, Ore. scored Saint Mary's first five points of the game.
He kept the offense going, taking a Brad Waldow block coast to coast for a layup, showing that familiar explosiveness that made him an all-West Coast Conference selection last season.
"Yesterday, I had a really great practice, just going after it, making my cuts and being aggressive," Holt said. "I knew going into this game, when I came off the bench, I had to give us a spark defensively, make some tough plays, rebounding, scoring when I could. As a team, I feel like we did a great job of incorporating me back into the lineup."
Despite Holt's offense, Rhode Island took control of the scoreboard for the next few minutes. A 3-pointer by Nikola Malesevic capped a 9-0 run, and left the Rams up 21-13 with 9:47 left in the half.
The advantage was short lived. A wild defensive exchange with loose balls galore on both ends of the court resulted in a good look from long range for James Walker III and he converted, tying the score at 26 with 4:21 left in the half.
That was only the beginning for Saint Mary's. The Gaels ended the half on a 14-0 run, and finished the period with style as Dellavedova found Walker in the corner for an open 3-pointer with seven seconds left.
Walker hit the shot despite being fouled, and Saint Mary's went to the locker room with a 35-26 lead.
"There was a point where we were down eight in the first half and we finished up nine at the end of the half," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "I thought that was key."
The Rams started the second half nearly as hot as the first, but the Gaels were able to counter the charge.
Again, Holt was in the middle of the action. An overplay near midcourt left him charging upcourt with one man to beat. Holt drew the foul, and his two free throws made it 47-36 with 14:57 to play.
The Gaels continued to extend the lead from then on, building as much as a 21-point advantage at one point. The win was also significant in that it moved the Gaels to 21-1 on their home court over the last two seasons.
"We were pretty dominant on the boards the whole game," Bennett said. "We thought if we were patient enough, we'd score. We have enough guys that make baskets where if we fight through their defensive pressure, we'll get pretty good shots."
Saint Mary's won't get much rest before hitting the court again, as the Gaels host Yale on Dec. 30 at 2 p.m. The Saint Mary's women's basketball team hosts George Washington at noon that day in a rare McKeon doubleheader.
Tickets for both games are available online at SMCGaels.com or through the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx.