After Saint Mary's hijacked SportsCenter's late highlights when Matthew Dellavedova beat BYU with a running 35-foot shot at the buzzer last week, coach Randy Bennett said the Gaels were a little lucky.

Maybe they were in the final seconds, but their comeback from a 20-4 deficit to win 70-69 in Provo, Utah, wasn't luck.

It was the fruit of seeds Bennett and his staff had been planting for several weeks.

"We weren't playing hard enough, weren't playing tough enough defensively," Bennett said. "It's hard to fix that. You may start working on it, but you don't see the results until a couple weeks later.

"We're finally starting to see results in those two areas, and we needed to. We should be able to be good in those areas."

The Gaels (15-4, 4-1) now find themselves in good position in the West Coast Conference. Saint Mary's, which lost 83-78 at No. 10 Gonzaga two weeks ago, gets both the Zags and BYU at home next month.

In the meantime, the Gaels play three of their next four at home, starting Thursday against San Diego. The road is tougher for BYU (15-5, 5-1) and Gonzaga (17-2, 4-0), who meet for the first time Thursday in Spokane, Wash.

Bennett said the BYU win provided some momentum that was evident three days later in a 60-38 win at Portland and could pay more dividends.

"There was a little more excitement, a little more confidence, a little more bounce in their step," he said. "If you handle it right, that win can have some shelf life for your team."


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Part of that equation is continuing to improve. Junior guard Stephen Holt, who missed four games in December with a knee injury, has come on strong as Dellavedova's running mate, averaging 18.5 points over the past four games.

"The Holt piece helps take some pressure off other guys," Bennett said.

Bennett's recent teams have set the tone for their seasons early. Those fast starts added up to five straight 25-win seasons and four NCAA tournament bids.

"Those teams have been able to put it together quicker for whatever reason," Bennett said. "There's still room to grow on this team."

  • No word from San Jose State on whether senior guard James Kinney, the nation's No. 11 scorer at 20.6 points per game, will be reinstated in time for Thursday's home game against Western Athletic Conference leader Louisiana Tech.

    Kinney and junior Louis Garrett sat out losses at Denver and New Mexico State last week, suspended for violating team policies. It was the second suspension for Kinney, who missed the Dec. 22 game against James Madison at Las Vegas.

    Coach George Nessman has declined further comment on the suspensions that came after discussion with deputy athletic director Marie Tuite. Still, it had to be a tough call for Nessman, who is 86-150 in eight seasons and trying to show new athletic director Gene Bleymaier he's the right man for the job.

    Two years ago, Nessman guided SJSU to its first winning season since 1993-94, but the Spartans were 1-13 in the WAC last year and this season are 9-9 overall, 3-4 in conference play. A year from now they will enter the much tougher Mountain West Conference.

  • Super Bowl coaches Jim and John Harbaugh don't have a monopoly on the sibling theme this week. Colorado junior Andre Roberson and his redshirt freshman sister Arielle Roberson will challenge Cal and Stanford in games in the Bay Area and in Boulder, Colo.

    Andre Roberson averages 10.5 points and a Pac-12 best 11.5 rebounds and boasts 32 career double-doubles. Arielle provides a team-leading 13.6 points per game for the CU women, whose only losses in 17 games this season were at home against Stanford and Cal.

  • Charlie Creme, women's basketball bracketologist for ESPN, projects both Stanford and Cal as No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament. He envisions the sixth-ranked Cardinal hosting in the first round with the seventh-ranked Bears traveling to Spokane, Wash.

  • The San Jose State women (7-11, 4-3) have won three straight WAC games for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

    Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/CalBearsBANG.