SPOKANE, Wash. -- Saint Mary's frantic second-half rally wasn't enough to send the Gaels past the ninth-ranked team in the country.
Gonzaga beat the Gaels 83-78 on Thursday night, but this game will be added to a long list of thrilling contests these two schools have played over the last five years.
And who knows what the outcome would have been if Matthew Dellavedova had a better shooting night. Saint Mary's never led once in this game.
Dellavedova's last shot of the night was an open-look 3-point attempt along the left side of the floor. The shot bounced off the rim, over the backboard and out of play with the Gaels trailing 81-78 with 6.9 seconds to play.
Dellavedova, the reigning West Coast Conference player of the year, finished 4-for-15 from the floor.
"No excuses," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "He's (Dellavedova) got to play better than that."
Trailing 48-28 early in the second half, Saint Mary's (12-4, 1-1 WCC) went on a 27-11 run to trim the lead to 59-55 with 10 minutes remaining. Gonzaga (16-1, 3-0) appeared to withstand the rally and pushed its lead to 79-71, but the Gaels reeled off seven straight points and cut the deficit to 79-78.
Saint Mary's got back in the contest almost single-handedly behind Stephen Holt, who finished with 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting.
The Gaels' poor shooting start, and a dominant performance by Gonzaga's big men, left Saint Mary's appearing to scramble to
Dellavedova missed his first five shots and didn't get into the scoring column until 9:07 left in the first half.
Holt picked up the scoring slack, and with 7:59 left in the half, Gonzaga only managed a 24-19 lead.
But from that point forward, Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk was responsible for half the points scored in the Bulldogs' 22-9 run to close the half.
The 7-footer finished the half 8 for 10 from the floor and led all scorers with 17 points. Olynyk finished the night with 31 points.
"I didn't think the bigs competed very well tonight," Bennett said. "We're way too experienced a team to be having that halftime conversation."
Gonzaga pushed its lead to 20 points early in the second half. But Holt did his part to cut into Gonzaga's lead as he scored half the Gaels' points in a 16-7 run to cut it to 55-44 with 13:24 remaining.
That stretch ended up being the prelude to another thrilling finish in the WCC's best rivalry.
USF (7-9, 0-3 WCC) at St. Mary's (12-4, 1-1), 8 p.m., CSNCA