Matthew Dellavedova's return to the starting lineup got the Saint Mary's men's basketball team started Sunday and the Gaels never stopped, cruising to a 87-52 victory over Mississippi Valley State in the first game of the South Padre Island Classic at McKeon Pavilion.
Saint Mary's (4-0) will play Chicago State in Moraga on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the second game of the tournament. After that, the Gaels will head to Texas to play Texas Tech on Friday and either BYU or South Florida on Saturday.
On Sunday, it was Dellavedova's turn to provide the early spark, as he made his first start of the season after coming off the bench in the first three games because of a hamstring injury that limited his practice time in training camp. He hit two early 3-pointers and scored the Gaels' first eight points.
"It was good to get off to a good start and hit the first couple shots because I've been struggling lately," said Dellavedova, who finished with 14 points. "It felt good to get the legs going early."
With Dellavedova now fully healthy, the Gaels have the flexibility to run any combination of their four guards out to begin a game. Freshman Stephen Holt came off the bench Sunday and still played well, scoring eight points and grabbing five rebounds.
"I told Stephen before the game that I consider all four of those guys starters," Gaels coach Randy Bennett said. " ... All four of those guys give us something different."
Mickey McConnell remained a constant for Saint Mary's, scoring a game-high 22 points to go with eight assists and six rebounds. Rob Jones showcased some aggressive offensive moves too, scoring 13 points in the rout.
An 11-1 run coming out of halftime allowed Bennett to empty his bench for most of the second half. That gave guard Jorden Page a chance to get some playing time, and he continued his comeback from a bruised knee by scoring seven points.
"I haven't really played since (last season), so it's been a while," Page said. "I started to feel a little more rhythm tonight."
Jason Holmes led Mississippi Valley State (0-2) with 19 points. No one else scored in double figures for the Delta Devils, as Saint Mary's limited them to just 30 percent from the floor.
"We were good tonight defensively, and that's how we want to be every night," Bennett said. "If you do that and take care of the ball, you're going to win the games you're supposed to."
Notes: Australia's ambassador to the United States, Kim Beazley, visited Saint Mary's on Sunday. He took a tour of the college, met with Australian student-athletes and attended the game. To celebrate his visit, the Australian national anthem was played before the game, and Beazley was introduced to the crowd at halftime. "That was cool. I'll tell my parents," said Dellavedova, one of four Australians on the Saint Mary's roster. "I think they'll be pretty surprised he came."
Chicago State at Saint Mary's, 7 p.m.