In the “First Four” matchup between the Saint Mary’s Gaels (28-6) and the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (28-6) there was just too much Matthew Dellavedova. The senior guard scored 22 points, grabbed six rebounds, and dished out four assists as he lead his Gaels to a 67-54 victory.
Dellavedova was one for his last 18 three-point attempts entering Tuesday night. He knocked his first try down and never looked back, finishing 5-7 from beyond the arc on the night. “There was no sigh of relief, I’m always confident that my shots are going down. It never entered my head.” Dellavedova said.
Dellavedova showed why he has been considered to be one of the best point guards in college basketball as he lead his Gaels on both ends of the floor all night, controlling the game to their advantage.
The Blue Raiders got a solid night out of their guard Marcos Knight who finished with 16 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds, but were simply outplayed by the Gaels all night.
Saint Mary’s only outshot Mid. Tennessee 45.7% to 42.3% from the field, but they shined from long range. SMC shot 57.1%, connecting on 8-14 three-pointers compared to the Blue Raiders 33.3% on 4-12 shooting.
Gaels junior guard Stephen Holt hit two of those three-pointers and finished with 18 points and six rebounds. When Holt is able to produce at the offensive end it has opened things up for Dellavedova all season. That’s exactly what happened Tuesday night. As much talk as there is about the play of Dellavedova, Holt could quite possibly be Saint Mary’s most important player.
Kerry Hammonds and Neiko Hunter each scored 10 points for the Mid. Tennessee. This was the Blue Radiers first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 24 years. While their season ended earlier than they had hoped, it was still a great accomplishment for the team out of the Sun Belt Conference.
Beau Levesque had 13 points and four rebounds off of the bench for the 11th-seed Gaels, who advance to take on the 6th-seed Memphis Tigers in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Tip off is Thursday at 11:45 AM (PT).
The Gaels punched their ticket to the dance the hard way, proving their doubters wrong. They hope to continue their success on Thursday and show that there is another West Coast Conference team that is a force to be reckoned with.
You can follow Rich Peters on twitter @Tricky_Roma.