MORAGA -- The Saint Mary's College men's basketball team made quick work of Portland on Saturday to remain undefeated at McKeon Pavilion this season.
Matthew Dellavedova scored 23 points in a 77-42 drubbing of the West Coast Conference's last-place team in front of 3,308 fans. The win was the Gaels' seventh straight and keeps them in second place in the conference standings.
But from here on out, defending home court won't be quite as easy.
If Saint Mary's (19-4, 8-1 WCC) is to earn a third straight West Coast Conference championship, it will need to navigate a final stretch at home that includes only the league's top teams -- Gonzaga, BYU and Santa Clara. Cruising, like they did against the Pilots (8-16, 1-8 WCC), probably won't happen.
The Gaels will also host a Feb. 23 ESPN BracketBusters game against an opponent that will be revealed on Monday.
"Those might be our four toughest home games and they'll have a great basketball atmosphere, too," Saint Mary's coach Bennett said. "Our whole deal has been to continue to get better. From Thanksgiving, when we dropped two games in a weekend, until now we've improved a lot. You want to be playing your best at the end of the season."
The crucial home games begin with WCC-leading Gonzaga on Feb. 14. That comes after the Gaels hit the road next week for games at Santa Clara and San Diego.
"As long as we continue to improve, (those games) will be good for us," Dellavedova said.
With the bigger tests on the horizon, Bennett liked what he saw from his team against Portland, particularly its rebounding and defense. Dellavedova regaining his shooting touch after a couple rough weeks was another positive.
With the senior point guard knocking down his four attempts from beyond the arc, it didn't take long for the Gaels to build a big lead against the Pilots. Dellavedova scored 11 straight at one point in the first half.
Fellow Australia natives Jorden Page (11 points) and Mitchell Young (10 points) also delivered strong starts. The trio combined to score 34 first-half points, helping Saint Mary's take a 41-21 advantage into the locker room.
For the Pilots, the game got no better after halftime. Saint Mary's went on an 11-0 run to open up the second half while holding Portland scoreless for more than eight minutes.
Page scored all of his points in the first half, continuing a strong week for the Queensland native. The junior guard, who averages 6.7 points, was coming off a 19-point effort in Saint Mary's 67-63 win at University of San Francisco on Wednesday.