Published November 20, 2014
Matthew Dellavedova played through pain for Saint Mary's. The rest of the Gaels just watched.
Dellavedova scored 17 points, but Isaiah Canaan had 17 of his 23 in the second half as No. 16 Murray State beat No. 21 Saint Mary's 65-51 on Saturday night for its most convincing win to date over a nationally recognized opponent.
"I just told our team this: 'We have a lot of things we've got to do better, but we need to get everybody on the same page defensively, and we're not there,'" Gaels coach Randy Bennett said. "Our defensive numbers aren't good, our rebounding has not been good. We've had some slippage."
Saint Mary's needed two flights and a two-hour bus ride just to reach Murray on Friday. It'll seem like an even longer trip home for the California school with a bus ride back to Nashville after the game and a stop Sunday in Houston before landing in Oakland.
"We had some adversity to get through with injuries, but us traveling and us coming out here, no bearing," said Bennett, his own left hand in a cast after badly breaking his thumb last month. "Where this travel could affect us is here on out. It's a tough four-dayer just to plug in the middle of your conference race. I'm more concerned with that part of it."
Saint Mary's has games remaining at Portland and at San Francisco before heading to the conference tournament, when Bennett expects to have Stephen Holt back.
Holt, the team's defensive stopper, hurt his right knee in Wednesday night's 75-60 loss to Loyola Marymount. Dellavedova rolled his right ankle in the same game, but played without a brace and appeared at times to be the only player willing to try to create for the Gaels after Rob Jones got into foul trouble early.
"He's a stud, man. He's playing on one leg. He's just an unbelievable competitor. I wouldn't have played him, but he wanted to play. I wanted to stop him," Bennett said. "He said he was good. He said it felt good. When you watch it out there, he's dragging a leg out there and he can't accelerate. I just hope he didn't set himself back at all.
"If we were going to have to shoot him up or anything like that, I wasn't doing that. We needed him too much down the stretch and I don't want to hurt a guy."
Meanwhile, the Racers (26-1) have already clinched the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title, but were still short of victories over quality opponents since beating Memphis in early December before hosting this Bracket Buster matchup with the Gaels.
It was never very close.
Murray State opened the second half with consecutive baskets to take its first double-digit lead as Canaan and the Racers turned up the pressure while shooting 58.1 percent from the field.
"This is definitely a confidence-builder for sure. It's a ranked team, so it lets you know that you are as good as the rankings say you are," Murray State senior Jewuan Long said. "It gives us confidence to know that we can play with other teams in bigger conferences, so we definitely have more confidence."
In one sequence, Canaan curled off a screen and took a pass from Donte Poole to hit a long 3-pointer, and Brandon Garrett blocked Brad Waldow's attempt that led to a 3-on-1 break completed by Canaan after passes from Poole and Zay Jackson.
After Dellavedova answered with a jumper, Canaan hit another shot from beyond the arc that made it 52-35 with 11:28 left as the Racers extended the lead to as many as 19 late.
Murray State jumped out to a 10-2 lead and never trailed in front of a sold-out CFSB Center.
"We've got to make a decision," Bennett said. "If we're not going to be good defensively, we're not going to be good."