MALIBU, Calif. -- Strong defense throughout the first half helped the Saint Mary's men's basketball team pull away and the No. 23-ranked Gaels cruised from there in a 87-48 victory over host Pepperdine on Wednesday.
Matthew Dellavedova led Saint Mary's (25-5, 13-2 West Coast Conference) with 25 points. He now sits just three points behind Daniel Kickert (1,874) for first all-time in Saint Mary's history.
Stacy Davis paced Pepperdine (12-16, 4-11) with 12.
"You couldn't have told me the game was going to go this way," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "They had just played well at USF. Our energy was great in warmups. Our guys were very focused for this, but that doesn't guarantee anything."
With Wednesday's win, Saint Mary's has won 25 games or more in each of the last six seasons. The only other schools to do that are Duke, Gonzaga and Kansas.
In this instance, the Gaels turned to stifling early defense to make the difference. They held the Waves to just six field goals in the first half.
Saint Mary's was equally efficient at the offensive end, shooting a steaming hot 16 for 31 from the floor in the first half (51.6 percent).
An 8-2 run put Saint Mary's up early, and the momentum swung fully towards the Gaels shortly thereafter. Stephen Holt made a contested layup, hit a corner 3-pointer, then made a steal that led to a Jordan Giusti putback that put Saint Mary's up 13-4 with 13:32 left in the half.
One of the highlight moments of the first half came courtesy of two members of the Gaels bench mob. Paul McCoy started the exchange with a nifty pass behind the back, and Matt Hodgson made it count by throwing a thunderous dunk down in the face of two Waves defenders.
Saint Mary's widened the gap even further to start the second half, coming out of the locker room on a 10-1 run to put things away.
"It was a good win for our team," Bennett said. "We're headed in the right direction at the right time of the year. We were good defensively. There were a lot of positives."
Saint Mary's returns to its home floor on Saturday at 7 p.m. when it hosts Santa Clara in the final regular season game of the 2012-13 season. The game will be televised live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
Saturday will be Senior Night at McKeon Pavilion, with a ceremony honoring seniors Dellavedova, Mitchell Young, Kyle Rowley, McCoy and Tim Williams. A limited number of tickets are available, and can be purchased by clicking the Tickets link on SMCGaels.com or calling the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx.