MORAGA, Calif. -- Saint Mary's men's basketball coach Randy Bennett will continue to preach the importance of defense until he puts his famous yellow notepad away and stops coaching.
It appears his Gaels are getting the message.
A first half filled with great play on the defensive end and opportunistic offense carried the Gaels on Thursday to a 81-48 victory over San Diego at McKeon Pavilion.
Beau Levesque scored a career-high 20 points to lead Saint Mary's (16-4, 5-1 West Coast Conference). Brad Waldow added 15 points, Mitchell Young had 10 and Matthew Dellavedova dished out a season-high 11 assists.
Cameron Miles, Johnny Dee and Mike Davis each had 8 to lead San Diego (11-10, 4-2).
Saint Mary's took the lead early and never relinquished it. An 11-4 run got the Gaels started, with a free throw by Beau Levesque capping the streak.
That lead would only continue to balloon, with Levesque the main protagonist on offense. He scored 14 points in the first half alone, just four off his career high.
While the Gaels were efficient early on offense, they were even better defensively.
San Diego shot just 35 percent in the first half, and saw Saint Mary's win the rebounding battle 16-11. The Gaels succeeded in slowing the Toreros heralded backcourt of Dee and Christopher Anderson, holding the duo to just two points in the first half.
"We're getting more consistent. I think (Jordan) Giusti in the rotation helps," Bennett said. "I think we're changing as a team. Our depth is much better."
Owners of a 42-19 lead at the break, the Gaels only continued to pour it on early in the second half. Five points from Young keyed an 8-2 run to begin the half, expanding the Saint Mary's advantage.
While the Gaels' usual floor game was in fine form, Saint Mary's also took to the skies on Thursday.
Several alley-oops ignited the crowd, with perhaps the biggest roar from the crowd coming when Dellavedova found Waldow for a thunderous jam with 15:39 left. San Diego coach Bill Grier called time out, and the McKeon faithful continued to cheer well into the break.
With the score one-sided, a full Gael Force student section began the chant for Paul McCoy to check in for the first time at McKeon Pavilion and head coach Randy Bennett obliged, inserting McCoy with 9:56 to play.
The senior guard, who made his Gaels debut on Saturday in Portland after two years missed due to knee injuries, scored his first points with a pheomenal up and under layup on a fast break late in the game. He finished with two points.
"He was a tremendous athlete. Football, basketball, track, he's a big time competitor and he hasn't got a chance to show it," Bennett said. "Now, we all get a chance to see him play and I think people are going to love that guy because of how hard he plays."
Saint Mary's returns to the hardwood on Saturday when it hosts Pepperdine at 3 p.m. Tickets are available by visiting the Tickets link on SMCGaels.com, or by calling the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx. The game will also be televised locally on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.