MORAGA -- Randy Bennett watched from home as his team's shot selection deteriorated over the past five games. The Saint Mary's College basketball coach wasn't able to do anything about it while banned from all head coaching duties as part of an NCAA suspension
But with Bennett back at the helm Saturday, Saint Mary's got its offense back on track. All five starters scored in double figures as the Gaels beat USF 88-73 for their 17th straight win over their local rivals.
A sellout crowd of 3,500 at McKeon Pavilion gave Bennett a standing ovation when he emerged just before tipoff. He received a similar reaction from fans last March after the NCAA announced penalties against the school for rules violations and Bennett's "failure to monitor" a former assistant coach.
"I was a little more prepared for (the fan reaction) this time because of last year, and it's still moving," Bennett said. "I just appreciate being appreciated."
The Gaels (13-5, 3-2 WCC) led the entire way against a Dons team that came into the game tied for first in the West Coast Conference. Saint Mary's shot 56 percent from the field, including 52 percent from 3-point range.
Bennett, who returned to practice Friday, singled out only one shot that he didn't like.
"We talked about it, it was as simple as that," Bennett said. "Don't take tough shots. ... I may have helped there -- they know I'll pull them out if they're shooting those."
Stephen Holt led the way with 21 points, connecting on 5 of 6 attempts from the floor and 8 of 9 from the free-throw line. He also had five rebounds and five of the Gaels' 17 assists.
James Walker III added a career-high 17 points, and Brad Waldow finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
"(Shot selection) looked a lot better, and it starts with me being the point guard," Holt said. "I just have to give my teammates confidence and put them in the right position to make plays. Today the ball was moving everywhere."
Saint Mary's led 43-28 at halftime, but USF closed to within 54-47 about five minutes into the second half on a Cole Dickerson 3-pointer. The Gaels responded with a 14-0 run to break open the game and led by as many as 23.
Avry Homes led USF (11-7, 4-2 WCC) with 17 points. Kruize Pinkins and Dickerson had 16 each.
Pacific (10-6, 1-4 WCC) at Saint Mary's (13-5, 3-2), 5 p.m.