MORAGA, Calif.–In recent years, San Diego had given Saint Mary’s a run for its money. That was nowhere near the case on Thursday.
San Diego forward John Sinis picked up a technical foul with 3:14 left in the first half after he fouled Beau Levesque on a layup and it summed up the frustration for San Diego on the night.
The foul came during a 21-4 Saint Mary’s run, which gave them a commanding lead they never relinquished as the Gaels went on to win 81-48 Thursday night.
Paired with a BYU loss to Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s (16-4, 5-1 WCC) moved into sole possession of second place in the West Coast Conference and had its second straight blowout win, led by its defense.
Levesque was a major part of the run and made his impact felt from inside and outside.
The redshirt junior forward hit two threes during an 8-0 run to extend the Saint Mary’s lead to 25-9. He followed it up with a tough layup on an alley-oop pass from Matthew Dellavedova to start an 11-0 run.
Levesque had 14 first half points and finished with a career-high 20 points.
Saint Mary’s led by as much as 35 against the Toreros, who lost both games last year to the Gaels by a combined 17 points.
San Diego (11-10, 4-2) started league play 4-0, beating up on San Francisco, Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount, and Portland, but in the last two games have faced the upper tier of the WCC and been given a loud and clear message.
They still have a ways to go.
The Saint Mary’s defense suffocated San Diego and did not give the Toreros many easy looks in the first half. San Diego shot 35 percent from the field and Dee was held to two points in the half.
That defense also forced San Diego into 10 turnovers and the Gaels turned them into 11 points. San Diego turned over the ball 15 times on the night.
No San Diego player scored in double figures. Chris Anderson and Johnny Dee combined for 14 points on 4-for-11 shooting.
The Toreros lost 74-57 to BYU on Saturday and shot 36 percent from the field.
McCoy’s return to McKeon
Midway through the first half, Gael Force began chanting “We want Paul” for fifth-year senior Paul McCoy who had missed all of last season and much of this season with a knee injury after transferring to Saint Mary’s from Southern Methodist.
And Gael Force got its wish and with 9:57 left, McCoy checked in to a thunderous applause and from there on out, anytime he came near the ball the crowd grew louder. When he scored with 2:04 left, not only did the crowd erupt but so did the bench and Saint Mary’s alum Omar Samhan, who was sitting courtside.
This is second game back on the floor after playing his first in front of his hometown fans in Portland on Saturday.
McCoy had gone through three major knee surgeries, all to his right knee.
Gonzaga 83 – BYU 63
Much like they did against Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga got out to a big early lead. But unlike that game, the Bulldogs did not let up on BYU.
Gonzaga (18-2, 5-0) led by as much as 23 as they cruised to the 83-63 win and remain alone in first place in the WCC.
Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris combined to score 51 points and 19 rebounds for Gonzaga. Tyler Haws was limited to one point and hit none of his nine shots against Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs shot 56 percent from the field and held BYU (15-6, 5-2) to 35 percent.
Pepperdine 60 – Loyola Marymount 57
LMU (8-12, 1-6) put together a furious run at the end of the game but came up just short against Pepperdine.
The Waves (10-9, 2-4) held the Lions shot 36 percent from the field and a mere 31 percent in the second half, which has been per the usual for both teams in conference play. Pepperdine is one of the league’s best in opponents field goal percentage and LMU is one of the worst shooting teams in the league.
The Waves were led with 21 points by Jordan Baker. Anthony Ireland led LMU with 14 points but on 4-for-18 shooting.
San Francisco 75 – Portland 72
Cole Dickerson did his best Matthew Dellavedova impersonation as he hit a three at the buzzer to give San Francisco the win at Portland.
The (9-11, 2-5) Dons have now won back-to-back games and came alive offensively after poor performances last week. San Francisco shot 53 percent from the field and hit 16 of its 17 free throws on the night.
Dickerson finished with 15 points.
Portland (8-13, 1-5) led by 11 with 9:20 left and let it slip away. The Pilots had one of their better offensive nights by shooting 51 percent.
Ryan Nicholas led the Pilots with 23 points.
Follow Zack Farmer in Twitter: @Zack_Farmer