PROVO — If the BYU Cougars are going to get revenge on St. Mary's for beating them on their home court a year ago, they'll have to wait another year.
Gael All-America candidate Matthew Dellavedova drained a 26-foot 3-point runner at the buzzer to steal the thunder from BYU's Tyler Haws and lift SMC over the Cougars, 70-69, on Wednesday night.
Haws had put the Cougars up 69-67 on a fall-away jumper with 2.5 seconds left. Somebody forgot to stop Dellavedova's dribble or foul him in some fashion, however, and he bit the Cougars.
Boy did he ever.
The loss was BYU's first in WCC play, dropping the Cougars to 4-1 and 14-5 overall. More importantly, with the Cougars being a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament and in need of quality wins, this loss really hurts. SMU climbed to 4-1 in league play and 14-4 overall.
Dellavedova finished with 18 points. Haws had 23 to lead all scorers and appeared to have won the game before Dellavedova's late heroics. Cougar players left the court dejected as SMC team celebrated on BYU's court for the second year in a row.
St. Mary's outboarded BYU 36-29 to overcome BYU's shooting advantage, 52 percent to 41 percent. SMC made 10-of-25 3s, which also killed the home team.
This game was a key showdown between two of the league’s top teams fighting to challenge No. 8-ranked Gonzaga, the favorite to win the league title and earn the top seed in the WCC tournament in Las Vegas come March.
St. Mary's put a physical net over Haws, shadowing the sharpshooter and making him work. In the meantime, the Gales took control of the boards and effectively moved the ball around BYU's zone defense after the first 10 minutes by staging a furious comeback just like at Gonzaga last week that fell short.
BYU's Brandon Davies tried to take over the game on the offensive end but sputtered, missing his first three shots of the second half at the same time SMC's shooters got hot. That made this one a real battle.
The Cougars blew a 16-point first-half lead and trailed 53-48 with 10 minutes to play in the game. BYU regained a one-point lead on an Anson Winder steal and 3-pointer by Brock Zylstra with 6:20 to go.
The game went back and forth the rest of the way with SMC star guard Matthew Dellavedova shooting it out with Haws and Zylstra.
Early on, the Cougars raced to a 22-4 lead on the hot hand of Carlino, who had 10 points out of the chute. St. Mary’s made a charge in the final 12 minutes, closing the gap to 34-27 at halftime.
The Gaels made their run with second-chance points, outrebounding the Cougars 21-14 in the first 20 minutes. In that span, however, BYU outshot the visitors 53 percent to 35 percent.
An interesting matchup the first half was Gael all-conference point guard Dellavedova against the WCC’s leading scorer, Haws. Dellavedova played Haws very physical, trying to deny him the ball and take him out of BYU’s set plays. Haws had seven first-half points.
The Cougars countered with Davies attacking single coverage inside the key for eight points in that half. St. Mary’s struggled early with BYU’s zone defense, but deployed an effective high-low post in the last part of the first half as Stephen Holt benefited with a pair of 3-point buckets.
St, Mary's took advantage of BYU's cool shooting and tied the game at 38 five minutes into the second half. The Cougars made 10 of their first 20 shots then managed just 4 of 20 in the subsequent span. The Gaels took a 41-38 lead with 15:10 to play in the game on a pair of treys by Holt over the Cougar zone.
The Gaels lengthened that advantage to 48-42 with just over 12 minutes to play on a 3-pointer by Dellavedova. At that stage of the game, SMC had outscored BYU 44-22 since BYU's 16-point early first-half lead.
The Cougars now host the University of San Diego on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.