MORAGA, Calif. — It probably wasn’t a coincidence that Saint Mary’s chose Saturday night’s game against BYU as Matthew Dellavedova Garden Gnome Night.
Prior to tipoff at McKeon Pavilion, the school handed out hundreds of limited edition Dellavedova Garden Gnomes to Gael fans.
Dellavedova, the former Saint Mary's star, was a noted Cougar tormentor, known for, among other things, the “Dellavedagger” against BYU in 2013, when he drilled a buzzer-beating, game-winning, 40-footer at the Marriott Center.
In 2014, Saint Mary’s retired Dellavedova’s No. 4 jersey before the BYU game. As it turned out, that marked the Cougars' first win in Moraga since they joined the West Coast Conference in 2012.
Dellavedova now plays for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
Saturday’s game at McKeon Pavilion, which features a brand new video board, was the first meeting between BYU and Saint Mary’s since last March, when the Cougars handed the Gaels a bitter 85-72 loss.
That was in the WCC semifinals at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, where BYU snapped its five-game losing streak against the Gaels and avenged a 31-point loss in the WCC semifinals a year earlier. Yoeli Childs scored a career-high 33 points and made 3 of 3 from 3-point range that night.
While Saint Mary’s entered that game with a 28-4 record, it failed to receive an invitation to the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday.
Did that setback to BYU keep the Gaels out of the Big Dance?
“I don’t think so but if we would have won it, we probably would have gotten in. I don’t know,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett told the Deseret News during WCC Media Day last October. “It probably did. It’s kind of silly. You can’t lose a game to BYU? That’s silly to me.”
Saint Mary’s certainly hasn’t forgotten that defeat to the Cougars.
“Any loss is going to sting and I’m always looking forward to the next time we play them,” guard Jordan Ford said at Media Day. “Definitely that loss kept us out of the tournament and there were other losses, too, that kept us out. It just shows you how important every game is.”
Bennett, who is in his 17th season at the helm, said BYU, which joined the conference eight years ago, has strengthened the WCC.2 comments on this story
“They’ve really enhanced our league. They gave us another program that has major resources. They treat their sports programs like they’re really important. That’s good because you’ve got to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak,” Bennett said. “It’s helped us. BYU has a 20,000-seat arena and they pack it. It’s a great atmosphere and it’s great TV exposure with them. ESPN want to show a game there. For those reasons, and the name alone, BYU has enhanced our league. (BYU coach) Dave (Rose) and his staff do a great job. We have a ton of respect of respect for that program.”