MORAGA -- Rob Jones had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Matthew Dellavedova scored 13 points to lead No. 24 Saint Mary's past pesky Pepperdine 61-47 on Thursday night for its eighth straight victory.
It was Jones' 12th double-double of the season. Stephen Holt added 12 points and three assists to help the Gaels (18-2, 7-0) remain the only unbeaten team in the West Coast Conference. Saint Mary's has won 16 of 17 since a loss at No. 3 Baylor on Dec. 22.Caleb Willis had 14 points and Jordan Baker added 13 for Pepperdine (7-11, 1-6), losers of six straight and still searching for its first conference road win of the season. Corbin Moore had 15 rebounds for the Waves.
Saint Mary's had to hold off one of the league's worst teams longer than it hoped.After the Waves scored the first six points of the second half to trim the deficit to one, the Gaels finally did what they do best: shoot and shoot often.Holt and Jorden Page hit 3-pointers and Mitchell Young had a putback to start Saint Mary's surge.Then Jones stole the ball at midcourt from Kenton Walker II and finished with a two-hand slam. Dellavedova followed with a 3-pointer to give the Gaels a 44-34 lead.Once Saint Mary's shooters started rolling, the Waves had no answer.Dellavedova and Holt made consecutive 3-pointers to put the Gaels ahead 59-44 with 5:56 remaining and turn a tight game into a rout. Saint Mary's outshot Pepperdine 42.6 percent to 40.9 percent.Saint Mary's is one of eight teams in Division I - along with WCC rival Gonzaga and newcomer BYU - to win at least 25 games in each of the last four seasons. An 83-62 romp over Gonzaga last week pushed the Gaels into the AP poll for the first time this season, and they are showing no signs of slowing down.Or dropping out of the rankings.Coach Randy Bennett's bunch proved anything but passive in the opening minutes, getting contributions from all over - including another packed crowd at tiny McKeon Pavilion - the court for a stirring start.Dellavedova drove through the lane for two layups, Jones had a dunk and a 3-pointer and Holt's layup capped a 13-1 run that put the Gaels ahead 21-8 midway through the opening half.Riding a strong defensive and rebounding effort, the Waves only allowed eight points and two field goals over the final 9:59 of the first half. Willis and Baker combined to go 3 for 3 from beyond the arc and Pepperdine sliced Saint Mary's lead to 29-21.The effort was a far better performance than the one Dec. 31, when Saint Mary's routed Pepperdine 74-45 in a game that was never close.The Associated Press contributed to this report