It was clear from the opening minutes that this would not be Santa Clara’s night.
Saint Mary’s led by as much as 16 in the first half behind Beau Levesque and used a second half run to cruise to the 84-63 West Coast Conference win over Santa Clara on Thursday.
The loss for Santa Clara (17-8, 5-5) hurts with the San Diego win over BYU on Thursday night. The Broncos have fallen a game back of the Toreros for fourth place in the WCC, which earns a first round bye in the WCC Tournament in March.
They have lost back-to-back games by sizable margins to BYU and Saint Mary’s and much of that has do to with their defense. They have allowed those teams to shoot 55 percent from the field.
“When we’ve been really good, we’ve been really good on the defensive end,” Santa Clara head coach Kerry Keating said. “We started out San Diego, we couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean but because we were defending well, we were able to extend and get a win on the road.”
“We lost some focus in some spots there at some inopportune times and then we let it affect our offense too much.”
Saint Mary’s dominated the opening minutes of the second half in tempo and on the scoreboard.
The Gaels opened the half on a 14-5 run and later was able to push the lead up to 18 after a layup and free throw from Levesque.
Only two weeks after scoring a career-high 20 points against San Diego, Levesque topped that mark with 24 points on 7-for-11 shooting to go along with his six rebounds rebounds.
His six threes on the night were also a career-best.
Santa Clara put together a couple of runs but could never get it back to single digits.
Santa Clara shot 40 percent from the field and despite having four players in double figures could not get any solid stretch of offense. Evan Roquemore led the team with 18 points.
Kevin Foster was held to 10 points on the night.
Matthew Dellavedova picked up his second foul with 15:39 left in the first half and Bennett pulled him for James Walker III. After a couple of possessions, it was clear the offense struggled without the reigning WCC Player of the Year and he was reinserted.
The foul trouble got worse when Stephen Holt picked up his second foul with 11:36 left in the first half and after a pair of free throws from Evan Roquemore made it a six-point game, it looked like Santa Clara might take advantage.
That is until the Gaels found the hole in the defense.
Saint Mary’s found Levesque uncontested four times in the next three minutes and he hit all four treys, with the last one rimming in, giving the Gaels a 31-16 lead.
The Broncos got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.