MORAGA (AP) ― Saint Mary’s clinched a share of its first WCC regular season title in 14 years and the top seed in next week’s conference tournament by beating Portland 83-69 on Saturday night behind 21 points from Matthew Dellavedova.
Stephen Holt added 16 points and Mickey McConnell 15 for the Gaels (23-7, 11-3), who snapped a three-game losing streak that cost them a chance at an outright title.
That skid also hurt Saint Mary’s case for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, meaning the Gaels may need to win the WCC tournament to be assured of an NCAA berth in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. By beating the Pilots (20-10, 7-7), Saint Mary’s will have the top seed in Las Vegas by winning the tiebreaker over Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs moved into a tie for first by winning 89-85 in overtime at Saint Mary’s on Thursday night and clinched a share of their 11th straight conference title by winning at San Diego earlier in the day. Both teams will have a bye until the semifinals.
The Gaels turned the tables on the Pilots, who used a 27-2 run to open the second half to beat Saint Mary’s 85-70 at home last month. The Gaels got three early 3-pointers from Holt, who is from Portland, and opened the second half on a 21-6 run that turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 59-45 lead.
Portland missed eight of its first 11 shots in the half, including a dunk attempt by Kramer Knutson, as the deficit grew. The Pilots got as close as seven points down the stretch but never really threatened the Gaels.
The game had no bearing on the Pilots’ position in the conference tournament, as wins earlier in the day by Gonzaga and Santa Clara meant Portland would be seeded fifth. The Pilots will face last-place Loyola Marymount in the first round Friday.
Portland played without starting guard Tim Douglas (foot), who scored 26 points in the Pilots’ win last month over the Gaels. Eric Waterford played solidly in his place, scoring 10 points. Jared Stohl led Portland with 16.
The Gaels started slowly, falling behind 11-2 as McConnell was called for two fouls in the first 76 seconds. They quickly answered with a 16-2 run capped by a pair of 3s by Dellavedova, and the game remained tight for the rest of the first half.
McConnell, who is averaging 39.7 minutes per game in conference play, was called for his third foul after contact away from the ball on the offensive end with 8:44 to go. Coach Randy Bennett took a small risk and put McConnell back in for 39 seconds later in the half.
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