No. 21 SMC faces BYU looking to stay perfect in WCC

January 28, 2012, 4:36 am
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BYU (18-5) vs.SAINT MARY'S (20-2)6 p.m.

BYU and Saint Mary's are the top scoring teams in the West Coast Conference, so it's no surprise their first meeting turned into a high-scoring affair.

Lately, though, each has been winning with solid defensive efforts.

The conference-leading and 21st-ranked Gaels look for a regular-season sweep of the third-place Cougars when the teams meet Saturday night in Provo, Utah.

St. Mary's (20-2, 9-0) has won 10 straight after defeating Loyola Marymount 71-64 on Thursday, marking the fourth time in five games it held the opposition to less than 65 points.

The Gaels are allowing a WCC-low 60.1 points per game.

Stephen Holt scored in double figures for a sixth straight game with 19 points, raising his season average to 10.8, and Rob Jones posted his fourth consecutive double-double. Leading scorer Matthew Dellavedova (15.7 ppg) had a season-low four field-goal attempts and finished with 13 points.

"That's just the kind of team we are," Holt said. "(Thursday) just happened to be my night but we have a lot of veterans on this team who can step up. I'm really proud of my teammates."

BYU (18-5, 6-2) is coming off a 70-68 non-conference win at Virginia Tech on Wednesday, as Brock Zylstra hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 26 seconds left.

Noah Hartsock had 22 points and Brandon Davies added 17 for BYU, which averages 79.6 points to lead the WCC.

"(The game) should give us a lot of confidence in our ability to be able to rely on each other and trust each other as we continue to try and be more competitive," coach David Rose told the team's official website.

The Cougars have rebounded from an 82-68 home loss to Loyola Marymount on Jan. 19 by winning back-to-back road games, holding each opponent under 70 points. They'll likely need a better defensive effort against St. Mary's this time around.

The Gaels won the first meeting 98-82 on Dec. 29 as Jones had 24 points and 15 rebounds, Holt scored 21 and Dellavedova added 18 with 12 assists.

It marked the most points BYU has allowed since a 110-104 win over Nevada on Dec. 22, 2009, and far more than the 65.3 points per game it currently allows. The Cougars are 13-0 when holding teams to 65 or less.

Davies scored a career-high 28 points last month against the Gaels, though Rose must hope the defense improves in this matchup.

"You challenge your guys to go and compete. When things aren't going well right now we still have to defend and this thing will turn," Rose said. "And when it turns we all have to be on the same page and just try to do everything we can do to win."

St. Mary's also allowed a season high for points in the first meeting, though it has held 17 of its 22 opponents to 70 or fewer.

The Gaels rank second in the WCC in scoring at 76.5 points per game. Their only two losses came when they were held below 60.

"We have a veteran group with really, really solid leadership," assistant coach Rick Croy said. "These guys understand what it takes to win in this conference."

St. Mary's is 5-1 in true road games, with the only blemish being a 70-58 loss at Denver on Nov. 23.

BYU is looking to avoid suffering back-to-back home losses for the first time since 2005.