St. Mary's crushes WCC rival Gonzaga
Saint Mary's took Gonzaga right out of its game, on both ends of the court. In the paint and on the perimeter, the Gaels made all the timely stops down the stretch.
Matthew Dellavedova hit five three-pointers on the way to 26 points and also dished out six assists as Saint Mary's pulled off a rare rout of the 21st-ranked Bulldogs with an 83-62 win Thursday night in a matchup of the West Coast Conference's fiercest rivals.
''I think this team is better than the one last year. Going into this game, I thought this is one of their better teams in a while,'' Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said of his Gaels. ''We played at a high level.''
Brad Waldow added 17 points and 10 rebounds and Stephen Holt had 13 points and six assists for the Gaels (16-2, 5-0) at a rocking McKeon Pavilion, where a standing-room only crowd packed the arena for a nationally televised showdown that's always the biggest draw of the season here. Students stormed the court after the final buzzer.
''It's a really big rivalry game. We're happy to get a win and keep it going in conference,'' Dellavedova said. ''We definitely defended well inside. We worked really hard on our defense. We had confidence we could win the game.''
Saint Mary's beat Gonzaga 81-62 in the WCC tournament final during the school's 2010 run to the NCAA tournament regional semifinals.
Elias Harris had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Kevin Pangos scored 12 for the Bulldogs (13-3, 3-1), who had their eight-game winning streak snapped. Gonzaga lost in early December to Illinois and Michigan State, marking another tough non-conference schedule under coach Mark Few.
Clint Steindl knocked down a three with 15:25 left that put Saint Mary's ahead 48-37, and the Gaels made key stops down the stretch to extend the lead. They won their sixth straight since losing to now-No. 4 Baylor 72-59 on Dec. 22.
''They outhustled us, they outcompeted us,'' Harris said.
Dellavedova hit big threes with 10:05 left, at the 5:22 mark and again with 3:43 remaining to keep his team in control. He had a lay-in with 2:52 to go and jumped in the passing lanes on defense to cause havoc for the Zags.
The gutsy Australian guard — who had a career-high 27 points in Monday's win over San Francisco — sat down to a rousing ovation with 1:29 left. He finished 10 for 16 from the field — 5 of 10 from long range — and scored 15 of his points in the first half, including six during an 8-0 spurt to end the half and give the Gaels a 37-29 lead at the break.
Saint Mary's held Gonzaga's big men in check. Gaels center and leading scorer Rob Jones did his part on both ends despite getting just two points to go with 11 rebounds and eight assists.
''Rob Jones probably played the best game I've seen anybody play without scoring 'til the end,'' Bennett said. ''We didn't give them easy baskets and we were able to take away their inside game.''
The 7-foot Robert Sacre, Gonzaga's third-leading scorer at 11.5 points per game, missed all four of his field goal tries in the first half and began the final 20 minutes on the bench with Sam Dower in the game instead. Sacre checked in with 15:23 to play and wound up with four points on 1 for 7 shooting and three rebounds.
''We could never get consecutive stops,'' Few said. ''We went to a zone and got a couple of stops, but they also pressed into us on offense and we weren't getting good ball screens and we were holding onto the ball a little bit too long, a little bit too much one-on-one. They just thoroughly outplayed us.''
This was a rare lopsided result in one of the nation's more underrated rivalries.
Gonzaga had won the last two meetings overall and three in a row on the Gaels' home court despite raucous sellout crowds and fans standing in the corners and lining both baselines. The Zags also captured the West Coast Conference tournament crown last season with a 75-63 victory to secure the league's automatic NCAA tournament bid.
Saint Mary's was stunned by Kent State 71-70 in the first round of last year's NIT.
Gonzaga trailed at halftime for the first time since being down one point at the break before losing 74-67 at home to Michigan State on Dec. 10.
These teams have combined to win every WCC regular season title since 2001. The perennial favorite Zags were picked by the WCC coaches to win a 12th consecutive crown, with Saint Mary's at No. 2.
The Gaels and Zags are two of eight teams in Division I — along with WCC newcomer BYU — to win at least 25 games in each of the last four seasons.
Several former stars from both schools were in attendance, including ex-Saint Mary's center Omar Samhan and David Pendergraft of Gonzaga. Matt Santangelo, another former Zags great, worked the game for TV.
Gonzaga, the conference's most dominant team for more than a decade, pulled off an 89-85 overtime victory the Gaels' home court last season. That kept Saint Mary's from winning its first outright regular-season WCC championship since 1989.
The Zags also won 89-82 at McKeon in 2010.