MORAGA, Calif. -- Saint Mary's led for most of Saturday's West Coast Conference showdown against BYU but the Cougars took the advantage when it counted as the Gaels fell 60-57 at McKeon Pavilion.
Saint Mary's got a chance to tie with 5.1 seconds left, inbounding the ball under its own basket. Holt was fouled near the TV announcers' table and made his first free throw to cut the deficit to two.
Gaels head coach Randy Bennett called time out, Holt made the second and BYU got it back ahead by a single point. Holt fouled Skyler Halford, who stepped to the line having not scored yet in the contest. Halford made both, and Holt again was fouled in the backcourt. He missed the front end and BYU secured the rebound for the win.
"We had chances early to stretch (the lead) and we didn't. Obviously we didn't do a good job against zone," Bennett said. "It bothered us, they stayed in it and we got tighter and tighter and tighter. We were tripping running down the floor, not catching an out of bounds pass, dribbling off the ref's shoe. That stuff happens when the game gets tight."
BYU took its first lead since the 2-0 mark when Kyle Collinsworth volleyed a putback high into the air and the ball found the twine, putting the Cougars up 55-53 with 2:48 remaining. After a foul at the other end and a time out, Collinsworth fouled out, depriving BYU of one of its best players for the final two minutes.
Saint Mary's got back into a tie thanks to some big-time work on the offensive glass. A ball tipped to the perimeter, followed by a rebound off an air ball left Waldow with the ball under the hoop and the big man converted, watching the ball hang on the rim for a split second before it fell to knot the score at 55 with 1:26 to play.
Nate Austin put BYU in front again with exactly one minute to play, splitting a pair of free throws to make it 56-55. A turnover by the Gaels, followed by a foul, put Carlino at the line for one and one and the guard missed the front end, with Waldow grabbing the rebound.
After a time out by Saint Mary's, BYU forced another turnover and got the ball on a held possession. Carlino got fouled with 5.1 seconds left and made both free throws, putting SMC down by three.
By the 10 minute to play mark, BYU had done its best to cut into Saint Mary's 10-point halftime advantage, going on a 7-2 run to cut the gap to 46-41. A 3-pointer by Haws sliced that lead even further, and BYU trailed just 46-44 with just under 10 to go.
The margin remained thin for the next several minutes, with Saint Mary's maintaining the slim five-point lead at 52-47 with five minutes to play. That lead evaporated in a matter of seconds once the clock went inside four minutes, and a transition layup by Carlino made it 53-all with 3:44 to play.
Saint Mary's carried the lead into halftime, and at several intervals the margin could've been mistaken for much larger as the McKeon faithful erupted time and again after big plays by the Gaels.
One such play came with 9:24 left in the half when, after a BYU bucket at one end, Holt swung the pendulum the other way, draining a 3-pointer from the wing to make it 19-9 Saint Mary's. The bucket forced a time out from BYU coach Dave Rose to try and quiet the crowd, but that proved only a momentary stoppage in an otherwise raucous half.
The Saint Mary's lead grew to as much as 14 with just under eight minutes to play, and a 3 by Kerry Carter made it 35-23 with 1:35 left. Those were the final points of the half for the Gaels, who went into the locker room with a 35-25 advantage.
"We did a lot right. We just didn't finish. We didn't close the game," Bennett said. "We've got to move on. We've got four left and they're all going to be tough. We'll play em one at a time and see what we can do."
Saint Mary's won't have to travel far for its next road trip as the Gaels will visit their Bay Area rivals next week. Thursday brings a trip across the Bay Bridge for an 8 p.m. showdown with San Francisco, and the week concludes with a 1 p.m. game on Saturday at Santa Clara. Tickets to both games are still available and can be purchased by calling the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx.