It might not be possible for both Saint Mary's and Brigham Young to get into the NCAA tournament in March, but the big dance isn't likely to produce many games better than the thriller those two programs produced late Wednesday night.
Saint Mary's senior Matthew Dellavedova drained a running shot from just inside the half-court line as time expired to give the Gaels a 70-69 come-from-behind victory over the Cougars in a pivotal game with probable postseason implications. BYU led 20-4 at one point early in the game.
Dellavedova's buzzer beater came just seconds after Brigham Young star Tyler Haws hit a shot driving across the lane to give his team the lead with 2.5 seconds left.
Gonzaga is the only team from the West Coast Conference with an NCAA tournament resume at this point. Both Saint Mary's and BYU entered the game needing a victory to put themselves in better position with the bulk of conference action still to come. Obviously there is a long way to go before tournament time, but the WCC looks more like a two-bid league at this point based on the lack of any signature victories from the Gaels and the Cougars in nonconference play.
It might be possible for three WCC teams to get into the tournament if Saint Mary's and BYU play well for the rest of the season, one of them upsets Gonzaga in the conference tournament and plenty of favorites win conference tournaments in the power leagues.
But relying on all that to happen is tough and that made winning Wednesday all the more important for both teams. The Gaels left happy with a leg up. The Cougars now have to fight that much harder. BYU lost for the first time in conference play.
It looked like BYU was going to run away with it in the first 10 minutes. It held a double-digit lead for much of the first half but Saint Mary's slowly started to chip away led by Stephen Holt who made five 3-pointers and led Saint Mary's with 22 points. Dellavedova scored 18. Holt gave the Gaels their first lead with a 3-pointer with just more than 15 minutes left in the game.
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