LAS VEGAS -- Matthew Dellavedova had made just one of his first 10 shots Saturday night against San Diego.
But Saint Mary's College teammate Jordan Giusti had no doubt No. 11 was going in.
"He steps up in the clutch every time -- he's Dellave-dagger," Giusti said after the senior guard hit a tying 3-pointer with 6.3 seconds left in regulation, allowing the Gaels to escape with a 69-66 overtime win over the Toreros in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament.
"You knew it was going down."
By avoiding the upset at the hands of the tournament's No. 6 seed, the Gaels (27-5) advance to Monday night's WCC title game against top-ranked Gonzaga (30-2), which pulled away for a 66-48 win over
Saint Mary's has never beaten the nation's No. 1-ranked team, and hasn't even played one since 1977. The Bulldogs beat Saint Mary's 83-78 and 77-60 in their two matchups this season.
But the final likely won't be any tougher than Saturday night's win.
The Gaels trailed by 13 points in the first half and 10 with less than 11 minutes left. They overcame those holes to earn a spot in their fifth straight WCC title game.
"A big key for us was to keep our composure, and our kids did," Gaels coach Randy Bennett said. "We showed a lot of toughness, a lot of belief."
Dellavedova, who had 12 assists in the game, said he had a lot of good looks at shots all night, just didn't make any of them.
"That's what a competitor does," Bennett said. "I didn't think Matt had a great game. Neither did Holt. But when we needed a bucket, they got us one."
In overtime, Mitchell Young scored consecutive layups off feeds from Dellavedova to put SMC up 68-64 with 2:31 left.
The Toreros cut that deficit in half, then had one last chance in the final 20 seconds left. But Dellavedova deflected a pass for a steal and Holt made one of two free throws with 12.8 seconds left.
USD's Johnny Dee shot an airball 3-pointer with 3 seconds left, and Giusti rebounded for the Gaels.
Gaels sophomore center Brad Waldow played the best game of his career with a career-high 23 points and 16 rebounds. He had an upper front tooth knocked out by a San Diego elbow with 5:17 left in the second half, and was taken to see a dentist after the game to have the tooth put back in.
Beau Levesque scored 19 points for the Gaels before fouling out.
Dee scored 18 points for the Toreros (16-18).
The win certainly improved the Gaels' case for an NCAA bid, regardless of how Monday goes. Saint Mary's, which took a No. 33 RPI computer ranking into play Saturday, has not lost to any opponent other than Gonzaga since before Christmas.
Bennett said Friday his team will be excited to face the powerhouse Bulldogs, who beat Saint Mary's 83-78 and 77-60 in their two matchups this season.
"We'd like to get another opportunity," he said. "It wouldn't be about what they're ranked. It would be about trying to beat Gonzaga again to win another championship."
Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/CalBearsBANG.