ANAHEIM, Calif. -- In the shadows of Hollywood, Saint Mary's guard Matthew Dellavedova put on quite a show today at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Dellavedova, a Wooden Award candidate for national player of the year honors, scored a career-high 32 points to lead the Gaels to a 76-64 victory over defending Colonial Athletic Association champion Drexel in the first round of the DIRECTV Classic.
The victory advances Saint Mary's to the tournament semifinals against future West Coast Conference rival Pacific tomorrow in a 12:30 p.m. tipoff. The Tigers upset favored Xavier 70-67 earlier in the day.
Tomorrow's game will be televised live by ESPN2 with Roxy Bernstein and Stephen Bardo calling the action. Live statistics will be available on ESPN.com and a live audio description of the game will be provided by Alex Jensen through subscription service Gaels Live on SMCGaels.com. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.com.
With the win, Saint Mary's moved to a perfect 4-0 on the season and 3-1 all-time in the DIRECTV Classic (formerly the 76 Classic). Drexel fell to 1-3 and will face Xavier tomorrow at 3 p.m.
The Gaels overcame a poor-shooting start and an early deficit to earn a tough victory over the defensive-minded Dragons. After falling behind for the first eight minutes of the contest, the Gaels found their range and posted their best-shooting performance of the young season.
“We had the Drexel game on our calendar circled out of respect for their team," said SMC head coach Randy Bennett. "They are hard to get rid of, they compete, and it was a good test for us. We see where our weaknesses are. It was a tough game."
Saint Mary's shot .540 from the field, connected on 19-of-22 free throw attempts and outrebounded Drexel 32-20. Inside, the Gaels outscored the Dragons 44-18 in the paint.
A starter on the Australian Olympic Team that advanced to the quarterfinals in London last summer, Dellavedova went 10-of-16 from the field, 2-of-7 from behind the 3-point arc and 10-for-12 from the free throw line. He also grabbed two rebounds, handed-out four assists and nabbed a pair of steals.
His scoring total equaled the second-highest scoring performance for player in the DIRECTV Classic. James Harden of Arizona State holds the tournament scoring record with a 40-point outburst against Texas-El Paso in 2008 and added 32 against Baylor that same season. Interestingly, that was the same season Saint Mary's dropped its first round game against the Miners, then won its next two games.
"It has gone pretty good," Dellavedova said, when asked out his start to the season. "I still need to work hard. During the game I was trying to play slow on the drives and play under control."
Sophomore forward Brad Waldow scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Gaels, while junior guard James Walker III added 13 points in front of friends and family from nearby Long Beach. Stephen Holt led the team in rebounds with a season-high eight.
Drexel guard Frantz Massenat led three Dragons in double-digit scoring with 17 points.
"(Saint Mary's has) a really good point guard," said Drexel coach Bruiser Flint. "He had 32 points today and he made huge plays when they needed him. When they needed buckets he made it, three point plays, three pointers, got guys the ball when they needed it, so he is a tough kid to play against. I think he makes the other kids on the team better and that causes a problem right there.
"We didn't do anything to slow him down. Like I said, I thought at times we didn't do our job in the heat of the game, being in certain places doing certain things and he is good enough to make a play when they needed it."