DAYTON, Ohio -- Matthew Dellavedova's credentials are unquestioned, but if the nation needed a little reminder, the Saint Mary's men's basketball star provided it Tuesday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Dellavedova scored 22 points and the Gaels turned a nine-point halftime lead into a comfortable victory as they claimed a 67-54 win over Middle Tennessee State in Dayton, Ohio.
With the win, Saint Mary's (28-6) moves on to Thursday's second round in Auburn Hills, Mich., where it will face No. 6 Memphis (30-4) at 11:45 a.m. (PDT). The game will be televised on CBS.
Marcos Knight led Middle Tennessee State (28-6) with 16.
Dellavedova asserted himself from the very beginning on Tuesday, scoring eight of Saint Mary's first 10 points to get the Gaels started.
The senior leader from Australia wouldn't stop there. He continued to make big shot after big shot, keeping the Gaels in control and finding teammates that would maintain a comfortable lead all the way to the end.
After the first few minutes of the second half saw Saint Mary's maintain the lead it had at halftime, Middle Tennessee began to close the gap.
The Blue Raiders did it with a 10-2 run, as a layup by leading scorer Marcos Knight capped the stretch, made the score 41-38 Saint Mary's with 12:39 left and forced Gaels coach Randy Bennett to call time out.
With Saint Mary's leading by five and just over nine minutes left, Bennett brought Dellavedova to the bench for a little rest.
That rest lasted less than two minutes, as Dellavedova returned with 7:25 to play. The bottom line hadn't changed, with Saint Mary's leading by seven.
And when Dellavedova re-entered, he couldn't help but make an impact. The next time on offense, he nailed a long 3-pointer, putting Saint Mary's up by 10.
Saint Mary's took a nine-point lead into halftime, thanks to a great effort on the defensive end.
Though the Gaels shot just 36 percent before the break, they held the Blue Raiders to an equally cool 32 percent.
That yielded Middle Tennessee's second-lowest output in a half all year, with Saint Mary's leading 29-20 going into the locker room thanks to an 11-2 run to close the half.
Dellavedova's early offense proved crucial, as it helped Saint Mary's weather a nearly nine-minute stretch in the middle of the half where it did not convert a field goal.
Where Saint Mary's did its best work was beyond the arc, as it held a normally solid Middle Tennessee to just 2 for 8 from long distance in the half. The Blue Raiders shot 33 percent from beyond the arc for the game.