No. 24 Saint Mary's (Cal) 93, Santa Clara 77

BY foxsports • January 22, 2012

Struggling at the free throw line and outhustled most of the night, Saint Mary's trailed with 10 minutes left against Santa Clara.

Good thing for the 24th-ranked Gaels that Matthew Dellavedova kept shooting.

Dellavedova scored 26 points, five during a pivotal 15-2 run in the second half, and Saint Mary's held off the Broncos 93-77 on Saturday.

''We knew they were a tough team, pretty explosive offensively - especially at home,'' said Dellavedova, who went 11 of 20 from the floor. ''We knew it was going to take a while to try and separate. We just had to weather the storm early.''

In doing so, the Gaels won their ninth straight game and extended their best start under 11th-year coach Randy Bennett.

Saint Mary's (19-2, 9-0 West Coast Conference) won despite going 26 of 45 from the free throw line and 5 for 16 on 3-pointers. The Gaels made up for it by flexing their collective muscle inside, outrebounding the smaller but feisty Broncos 53-38.

''We took a tough shot from (them),'' Bennett said. ''Eventually, we slowed them down and in the second half we did a pretty good job. It just took us a while to get there.''

Rob Jones added 14 points and 15 rebounds, Jorden Page scored a career-high 19 and Brad Waldow had 14 points and a career-best 16 rebounds for Saint Mary's, which has won six straight in the series.

Niyi Harrison had 23 points and nine rebounds for Santa Clara (8-10, 0-5). Kevin Foster added 22 but the Broncos couldn't sustain their early momentum and lost their sixth straight.

''It got physical and we couldn't get going in transition like we were successful (doing) in the first half and the first part of the second half,'' Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating said. ''It was hard for us to get any attack and any balance in what we were trying to get done.''

Playing in front of the first sellout crowd at the Leavey Center in nearly two years seemed to give Santa Clara a spark. So did Foster.

The Broncos' junior had eight points in the first 5 minutes and later made his third 3-pointer to put Santa Clara up 29-23 midway through the first half. Santa Clara ran into some foul trouble, which allowed Saint Mary's to make a brief run and take a 44-42 lead before Foster hit another 3.

Robert Garrett then blocked a shot by the Gaels' Tim Williams under the basket. Brandon Clark grabbed the rebound and threw a long pass to Evan Roquemore, who raced down the court for the easy layup to make it 47-44.

Jones, who nearly had a double-double before halftime with 11 points and eight rebounds, scored on a layup to pull Saint Mary's within one at the break.

Santa Clara opened the second half as well as it ended the first, getting six points from Harrison.

Knocked out of the game earlier after crashing to the floor going for a rebound, Harrison came back and gave the Broncos a 56-52 lead with his second dunk in a 57-second span.

Bennett called a timeout to try to calm his team but it took some time for the Gaels to recover. They missed seven of 11 free throw attempts after the timeout and trailed 64-63 before going on their 15-2 run.

''We were trying to defend hard all game but I think that's when we started getting a lot of stops in a row,'' Dellavedova said. ''Jordie hit some big shots and (Stephen) Holt got some great buckets going to the hoop and Waldow and Rob were huge on the boards.''

Keating, frustrated at seeing his team's shot at an upset slip away, was called for a technical foul with 4:47 left and the Gaels up 79-68.

Saint Mary's continued to pull away and went up by 14 following Holt's driving layup with just over 2 minutes remaining.

Foster, who finished 6 of 16, moved into fourth place on the Broncos career scoring list. He passed Dennis Awtry and Steve Nash, now an NBA star with the Phoenix Suns.

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