It was an emotional week for Gaels fans as the men’s basketball team made its fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament in six years. The team racked up a resounding 67-54 win over Middle Tennessee State on March 19 in the First Four game in Dayton, Ohio, buoyed by Matthew Dellavedova’s red-hot shooting. Two days later, it fell just short of victory, 54-52, in a hard-fought battle with Memphis in the NCAA Midwest Regionals in Auburn Hills, Michigan, after a stirring last-minute comeback bid.
After the game, Coach Randy Bennett said, “I couldn't be more proud of a team. They put everything they had into that game. ...We thought it would be a dog fight and it was.”
Saint Mary’s ended the season with a 28-7 record and a stellar14-2 record in conference play, having defeated every other WCC team besides #1 tournament seed Gonzaga, which went down in defeat on Saturday.
The last-second loss to Memphis was a heartbreaker, but any season that ends in an NCAA run is cause to celebrate. Among the memorable moments this season were “the shot” – Dellavedova’s on-the-run half-court buzzer-beater against BYU – and “the tooth” sacrifice by Brad Waldow in the WCC semifinals victory over San Diego.
It was also a landmark year for the record books as Dellavedova shattered a string of SMC men’s basketball records, including career points (1933, surpassing Daniel Kickert’s 1874), assists, three-pointers and games played, among others – all while earning academic all-America awards.
In an NCAA press conference in Michigan, Bennett had high praise for the leadership of the team’s seniors, including Kyle Rowley, Tim Williams and Mitchell Young, as well as Paul McCoy, who he said will be back next year. And he had special praise for Dellavedova, saying, “He has set the blueprint for our program ... but I think he'll even help us win as he leaves because his leadership has been so strong.” Waldow seconded that sentiment, saying: “He's just a great person all around. He taught me how to be a winner on and off the court. He’s a great role model.”
By Teresa Castle
Office of College Communications
Photos by Tod Fierner/SMCGaels
Read media reports from the games:
SMC vs.Middle Tennessee State in First Four
SMC vs. Memphis in Michigan
SMCGaels - Gaels comeback bid falls short against Memphis – photos, statistics, recap, postgame quotes, postgame audio, updated records.