MORAGA (AP) ― Clint Steindl scored a career-high 22 points, Matthew Dellavedova added 15 points and nine assists, and St. Mary’s beat St. John’s 76-71 late Monday night, spoiling Steve Lavin’s return to coaching.
Steindl, one of three returning starters from last season’s surprising team that reached the NCAA tournament round of 16, did nearly all his scoring from the perimeter. The 6-foot-7 forward, who had six 3-pointers in a season-opening win Friday against the College of Idaho, made five in the second half and seven overall for the Gaels (2-0).
Dwayne Polee had 16 points for the Red Storm (0-1).
Lavin, the former UCLA coach who spent the past seven years at ESPN, didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things. He was whistled for a technical foul with 5:50 left in the first half after arguing a non-call.
St. Mary’s led by as many as 13 early in the second half, then held off a late surge by St. John’s over the final 4 minutes.
D.J. Kennedy made two free throws to pull the Red Storm within 54-47 with 3:15 remaining, but Mickey McConnell sank a 3-pointer and Dellavedova made eight free throws down the stretch.
The game, part of ESPN’s Tip-Off marathon, began at 11 p.m. Pacific time. That didn’t stop fans from packing McKeon Pavilion, many of them coming to jeer Lavin in his return to the bench.
Wearing a black suit and red tie, Lavin spent much of the night pacing back and forth on the St. John’s sideline while clutching a white piece of paper in his fist. He clapped furiously when the Red Storm scored and prodded his players after mistakes, looking very much at home again.
Lavin lost his cool momentarily late in the first half when Kennedy appeared to get hit in the mouth while pursuing a rebound. Kennedy lay prone on the court while play continued, and when no call was made, Lavin argued and was hit with a technical foul.
McConnell made both free throws for St. Mary’s, cutting the Red Storm lead to 27-23.
Lavin stayed out of trouble the rest of the way. His players weren’t as fortunate.
Polee made a 3-pointer to give the Red Storm a 40-39 lead with 11:31 remaining, but Steindl answered with his fourth 3-pointer of the half. That sparked a 14-0 run by St. Mary’s and gave the Gaels a 53-40 lead.
The Red Storm made one more push and were within 68-62 on Malik Stith’s layup. They were forced to foul after that, however, and Dellavedova went 8 for 8 from the free throw line over the final 25 seconds.
The St. John’s offense went stagnant after Lavin’s technical, managing only four free throws by Malik Boothe over the final 5 minutes of the first half.
The Gaels, who beat College of Idaho by 44 points in their opener, pulled within 31-28 at halftime and then scored the first six points in the second half on two 3-pointers by Steindl.
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