Saint Mary's College sent word Thursday night that this might be a special season with an 83-62 rout of No. 21 Gonzaga.
The Gaels put a emphatic end to Gonzaga's three-game winning streak in McKeon Pavilion using the offensive balance they have cultivated in recent weeks and a defense that, at times, simply shut down the No. 21-ranked Bulldogs.
Combine that with 26 points from Matthew Dellavedova, and the Gaels proved that, at least for now, they are the team to beat in the West Coast Conference.
"I'm really pleased with the way our guys played," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "Not just because we won, but the way we competed, defended, didn't turn the ball over much. We played at a high level tonight."
After taking a 37-29 halftime lead, separation on the scoreboard came just a few minutes into the second half for Saint Mary's (16-2, 5-0 WCC).
The Gaels went on an early 9-2 second-half run to go up 50-37 with 14:42 left, and guard Stephen Holt led the way. Not only did he score four points during the run, he also created for his teammates. At one point, a dish in transition resulted in a 3-pointer for Clint Steindl that ignited an already-frenzied capacity crowd.
From there, Saint Mary's used long possessions to wind the clock down and timely perimeter shooting to bury the Bulldogs.
Gonzaga (13-3, 3-1) was able to score in stretches, but that only served to trade baskets, not cut into the Gaels'
Brad Waldow used Thursday's nationally televised game to formally announce his presence for the Gaels, scoring 17 points to go with 10 rebounds in his first career double-double.
Rob Jones was equally effective, and he did it while scoring just two points. He grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out eight assists and played a big part in the post defense that set the Gaels up for the win.
"Rob Jones probably played the best game I've ever seen a guy play without scoring until the end," Bennett said. "He didn't play selfish, he just played to win. That's what makes Rob special. That's his identity. He plays to win."
The biggest difference came in what the Gaels were able to do down low.
In limiting Gonzaga center Robert Sacre to just four points, Saint Mary's did what it wasn't able to do last season against the Bulldogs -- match up in the post.
Sacre was such a non-factor early that he didn't even start the second half for the Bulldogs, replaced instead by Sam Dower.
"We defended really well inside," Dellavedova said. "We knew they'd try to pump it inside, but our bigs did a great job of defending, all of them."
That defense wasn't limited to the paint. Gonzaga shot just 38 percent from the floor in the first half and finished the game at 41 percent. Saint Mary's shot 51 percent.
Elias Harris led Gonzaga with 17 points.