While one WCC team moves on (barely), one team falls a little short. And when I say a little, I mean by a very small margin.
The Gaels were unable to take down Memphis in the round of 64, despite a late game surge led by senior point guard Matthew Dellavedova. Brad Waldow led Saint Mary’s in scoring with 17 points, and Dellavedova had 7 assists, another game high for the Gaels.
A real telling stat from this game is Memphis’s 12 blocks to St. Mary’s none. The Tigers game in and game out protected their rim while Saint Mary’s could not produce any post defense the entire game. D.J. Stephens had two thirds of the Tigers blocks with 8. He also contributed 9 points and 4 rebounds. The Gaels simply had no answer for Stephens, as well as Joe Jackson, who had 14 points and 7 assists.
The Gaels inability to knock down the three-point shot is what ultimately led to their demise. Saint Mary’s was an abysmal 3 of 15 from 3-point range, including an 0-5 effort from Beau Levesque, who struggled to even connect with the rim. The fact that Saint Mary’s was down by 2 with 3 seconds to go, based on this poor shooting performance, is just short of a miracle.
With 19 seconds to go, Brad Waldow tipped in a missed three-pointer from Eividas Petrulis to cut the Memphis lead to 4 (53-49). After being fouled with 14 seconds left, Tigers forward D.J. Stephens knocked down one of two free throws to extend the lead to five. Petrulis then drained a three to bring Saint Mary’s within 2 points. After an errant turnover by Memphis guard Joe Jackson, the Gaels were one made shot away from potentially tieing or even winning the game. In this situation, the ball was going to be in Matthew Dellavedova’s hands, no matter what. And that is exactly what transpired. With three seconds left, Dellavedova took the inbounds pass on the right wing and hucked up a three pointer. It missed everything. The Tigers escaped Auburn Hills with a 54-52 victory over Saint Mary’s, despite leading by as many as 15 points earlier in the game.
What does this mean for Saint Mary’s in the future?
Obviously, losing arguably the best player in the conference will hurt significantly. Matthew Dellavedova has been nothing short of fantastic his entire stay in Moraga. He has left his mark in the program by being the Saint Mary’s all-time leader in points scored, assists, games played, free-throw percentage, and three-point shots taken. For fans on other teams, his protruding mouthguard and crafty style of play makes him an instant enemy. However, there is no denying the impact that he has when on a basketball court. More often than not, Dellavedova was the most dominant player on the court, and it usually wasn’t even close.
As far as the future, the Gaels have some interesting pieces to move forward with. Brad Waldow, Jordan Guisti, Stephen Holt, and Beau Levesque will all be returning next season for the Gaels, barring a transfer. The main question that comes to mind when given these list of returners is ‘How successful will they be without Dellavedova running the show?’. The answer is unknown, but it is likely given this roster, that they will struggle significantly. They certainly will not fall to the depths of the WCC, but they are certainly inviting a teams like BYU or San Diego to surpass them in the standings. Also, their recent NCAA sanctions definitely will not help for years to come.