MORAGA -- The Saint Mary's College men's basketball team got a little revenge as it began its chase for a third consecutive West Coast Conference title.
The Gaels beat Loyola Marymount 74-61 in their conference opener at McKeon Pavilion on Saturday to help erase the memory of one of last year's low points.
On senior night last winter, the Lions handed Saint Mary's its lone home loss of the season.
"That one stung last year," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "As much as anything, we had respect for them."
Senior guard Matthew Dellavedova had 17 points and eight assists to lead Saint Mary's in the rematch.
The Gaels used a small lineup of four guards and a post player in the second half to put their top defenders on the floor against LMU, which was coming off a 41-point loss to BYU two days earlier.
Bennett employed a similar strategy when the Gaels pulled off a stunning comeback win over Harvard earlier in the week.
"We played well with that group last time, so we came back to it," Bennett said. "It helps us at both ends of the floor. As long as we can rebound and deal with the size mismatch, there are a lot of teams (that lineup) will be successful against."
As the Gaels held off the Lions down the stretch, Jordan Giusti was tasked with guarding LMU top scorer Antony Ireland.
Giusti, a redshirt freshman from San Ramon Valley High, received high praise from Bennett.
Giusti also tied a career
"It was completely lucky," Giusti said.
That stellar play capped an evenly played first half. Saint Mary's started the game on a 7-0 run, but LMU responded with a 9-0 surge, and neither team led by more than three the rest of the first half.
Saint Mary's (12-3) never trailed in the second half and began pulling away from LMU (7-8, 0-2 WCC) when James Walker III hit back-to-back 3-pointers with about 14 minutes left.
Walker, who scored 12 points, came off the bench as Stephen Holt made his return to the starting lineup.
A bruised knee sidelined Holt, a preseason All-WCC pick, for four games, and he slowly returned to action the past four games. Holt finished with seven points and seven rebounds.
Ireland led LMU with 16 points.