LOS ANGELES -- Regardless of what Loyola Marymount threw at Saint Mary's (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP), the Gaels had all the answers.
Stephen Holt scored 19 points to lead Saint Mary's to a 71-64 victory Thursday night."That's just the kind of team we are," Holt said. "Tonight just happened to be my night but we have a lot of veterans on this team who can step up. I'm really proud of my teammates."The win was the 11th straight for the Gaels (20-2, 9-0 West Coast Conference) over Loyola, dating to 2005-06. The Gaels have won 20 games for the eighth time in school history, and six of those seasons have been with coach Randy Bennett.If Saint Mary's latest victory was ever in doubt, the Gaels didn't show it."We knew they were going to try and pressure us," Saint Mary's assistant coach Rick Croy said. "Luckily we held tough defensively in the first half."Drew Viney had 18 points for the Lions (12-9, 5-3), who led by seven points before managing just one field goal over the final 5:10 of the first half.Anthony Ireland's basket with 5:11 remaining gave the Lions a 29-23 lead. Ireland also scored the Lions' next basket. Unfortunately for LMU, it came with less than 2 seconds left in the half.The Gaels scored 12 points between Ireland's baskets, taking a 35-31 lead into halftime. Jorden Page and Clint Steindl had 3-pointers, Kenton Walker II added a dunk, and Rob Jones and Matthew Dellavedova also scored in run.Saint Mary's opened the second half on a 10-0 run to take control of the game."We should have been denying the elbow-catch, and we weren't doing it," LMU coach Max Good said. "We had to do a better job of meeting them at the rim. But they're strong. That's easier said than done."Loyola got within six points in the second half.Saint Mary's finished with a 39-24 rebound advantage."You can never get outrebounded against a team like them and expect to win," Good said.Ireland's basket at the end of the first half turned out to be the Lions' only points during a 9:49 span. The drought ended when Ashley Hamilton knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key.Dellavedova had 13 points for the Gaels while Jones added 11 and Brad Waldow had 10. Dellavedova had seven assists, which moved him into third place on Saint Mary's career list with 477."We have a veteran group with really, really solid leadership," Croy said. "These guys understand what it takes to win in this conference."