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Gaels and Cougars meet in WCC tussle

Ranked 21st in the nation this week, the Saint CA Gaels continue to battle through the rest of the West Coast Conference as the team clashes with the BYU Cougars at the Marriott Center in Provo tonight.

On Thursday night, the Gaels ran their overall win streak to 10 in a row with a 71-64 road victory against Loyola Marymount. The victory kept the team undefeated in conference play at 9-0 which means the Gaels are all alone atop the WCC standings, with Gonzaga looming close behind at 7-1.

As for the Cougars, currently 6-2 in conference and in third place in their first year in the WCC after making the jump from the Mountain West Conference, they took a break from league action on Wednesday night and made the trip to Blacksburg, Virginia to tangle with Virginia Tech. The meeting was a tight one, but in the end BYU pulled out the 70-68 triumph, the team's second in a row and the seventh in the last eight games.

The Gaels, losers against only Baylor and Denver this year, won the first meeting of the season rather easily last month with a 98-82 triumph at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga. Rob Jones had a huge game for the hosts that night with 24 points and 15 rebounds, while Matthew Dellavedova logged a double-double of his own for the hometown team with 18 points and 12 assists. Despite the loss, the Cougars still own an 8-3 advantage in the all-time series.

Refusing to go away quietly, the Lions of LMU gave Saint Mary's all it could handle on Thursday night before the buzzer sounded in the seven-point decision. Stephen Holt scored a game-high 19 points for the visitors, followed by Dellavedova with 13 and seven of the team's 10 assists. Jones logged another double-double with 11 points and a game-high 15 boards, while Brad Waldow tacked on 10 points for the victors. The Gaels have had a different leading scorer in each of the last three outings, showing their balance and versatility, but when it comes to overall stats on the season it is Dellavedova who is first on the unit with his 15.7 ppg as he shoots just over 40 percent from three-point range. Jones is averaging a double-double for the group with 14.3 ppg and a team-best 10.9 rpg, his efforts on the glass helping to give the Gaels a rebounding edge of 8.5 per game which is one of the top numbers in the country.

For the third straight game Noah Hartsock scored at least 20 points, putting up 22 against Virginia Tech earlier this week as the Cougars slipped by the Hokies in a two-point decision at Cassell Coliseum. Also scoring in double figures again for the Cougars was Brandon Davis as he hit for 17 points, thanks mostly to his 11-of-12 performance at the free-throw line. BYU made it through with just 33.3 percent from the floor and 5-of-24 behind the three- point line, thanks to 21-of-24 shooting at the charity stripe. Getting back to conference play, Davies is close to averaging a double-double in those matchups with his 19.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per outing, both of which pace the Cougars. Hartsock checks in with 17.4 ppg, although his 2-of-11 shooting behind the three-point line in such games is certainly a concern, but at least the defense has been able to pick up some of the slack on the perimeter by holding WCC foes to just 28.4 percent success from long range.