MORAGA, Calif. – Gonzaga didn’t have an answer for Matthew Dellavedova – or several other Saint Mary’s Gaels, for that matter.
Dellavedova poured in 26 points and he had plenty of help from his teammates as Saint Mary’s handled No. 21 Gonzaga 83-62 to take sole possession of first place in the West Coast Conference in front of an overflow crowd Thursday inside 3,500-seat McKeon Pavilion.
The Bulldogs (13-3, 3-1 WCC) had won eight straight games and they were victorious in their last three trips to Moraga, but the Gaels (16-2, 5-0) took control late in the first half and dominated the final 20 minutes.
It was the most lopsided conference loss in Mark Few’s 13 seasons as Gonzaga’s head coach.
“We just couldn’t get a stop on anybody in the second half,” said Few, after watching the Gaels shoot 55.2 percent and put up 46 points in the second half. “In the first half we kind of played decent defense and directed the ball at least into two-point range and they made some tough shots. In the second half we didn’t keep them out of the lane once. They opened it up and started bouncing it at us and really hurt us.”
The Gaels, who pounded WCC contender BYU 98-82 to open conference play in Moraga, got big contributions from redshirt freshman center Brad Waldow (season-high tying 17 points, 10 rebounds), sophomore guard Stephen Holt (13 points, six assists and five rebounds) and junior forward Mitchell Young (12 points and six boards). Leading scorer Rob Jones didn’t crack the scoring column until 1:40 remained, but he contributed 11 rebounds and 8 assists.
Junior forward Elias Harris led Gonzaga with 17 points and Kevin Pangos added 12 points, but the Zags had few reliable options at the offensive end. GU made just 22 of 54 field-goal attempts, with Harris and Pangos combining to go 12 of 23. Center Robert Sacre, who didn’t score until 14:28 remained in the second half, was replaced by Sam Dower in the starting lineup for the second half.
“Their inside guys thoroughly outplayed our inside guys, plain and simple,” Few said.
So did the Gaels’ outside guys. Dellavedova nearly reached his career high of 27 points, set in Monday’s win over San Francisco. He made 5 of 10 3-pointers and added six assists.
Dellavedova got the Gaels out of the blocks quickly with seven points in the first 4:35. The Bulldogs rallied to take an 18-15 lead on David Stockton’s 3-pointer from the wing, but the Gaels rattled off nine unanswered points to grab a 24-18 advantage.
Gonzaga pulled even on Guy Landry Edi’s putback of his own miss, drawing Jones’ third foul in the process. Dellavedova made a tough jumper in the paint over Sacre, then a deep 3-pointer. Waldow’s reverse layup and a Dellavedova free throw capped an 8-0 spurt to close the half, giving SMC a 37-29 lead – the first time Gonzaga trailed at the break since Michigan State (35-34).
“The scouting report didn’t say too much about (Waldow),” said Harris, referring to Waldow’s scoring average of 6.7 points. “He was so confident, every shot was going in.”
Saint Mary’s stretched its lead to double figures, 48-37, on Clint Steindl’s 3-pointer with 15:24 left.
“We got stops,” SMC coach Randy Bennett said. “We didn’t give them easy baskets and we were able to take away their inside game.”
The Gaels went in front 59-45 on Dellavedova’s 3-pointer from the corner and another long Dellavedova 3 extended the lead to 17.
“He’s very tough,” said freshman guard Gary Bell Jr., who drew the defensive assignment on Dellavedova. “He just uses the ball screen well, makes good passes and scores it if ne needs to.”
Gonzaga gave up a season-high 83 points. The Gaels finished 51 percent from the field. GU shot 40.7 percent and was just 11 of 18 (61 percent) from the free-throw line.
“They pressed into us and we weren’t getting good ball screens and we were holding on to the ball a little bit too long,” Few said. “They just thoroughly outplayed us.”
Gonzaga visits Loyola Marymount on Saturday.