MORAGA -- The chase for a third straight West Coast Conference title got off to a winning start for the Saint Mary's College men's basketball team.
The Gaels beat Loyola Marymount 74-61 in their conference opener at McKeon Pavilion on Saturday, led by Matthew Dellavedova's 17 points and eight assists.
The win came over a LMU team that suffered a 41-point loss at BYU two days earlier.
A barrage of 3-pointers to start the second half helped the Gaels (12-3, 1-0 WCC) pull away from the Lions (7-8, 0-2 WCC). The Gaels' win avenges their lone conference home loss from last season when they won the outright WCC crown.
An evenly-played first half ended when Jordan Giusti's running 3-pointer bounced off the backboard and in, giving the Gaels a 33-30 advantage at the break.
Saint Mary's led the rest of the way.
The Gaels started the game on a 7-0 run, but LMU responded with a 9-0 surge and neither team led by more than three the rest of the first half.
Junior Stephen Holt, a preseason all-WCC pick, returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Nov. 25. A bruised knee kept Holt out for four games and he slowly returned to action the last four games.
Holt finished with seven points and seven rebounds.
James Walker III, who came off the bench as Holt regained his starting role, tallied 12 points.
Guard Anthony Ireland scored 16 points to lead LMU.
Beau Levesque had 11 points for the Gaels