The Cougars neutralized the No. 21 Gaels' two leading scorers, Matt Dellavedova and Rob Jones, but couldn't stop center freshman center Brad Waldow or reserve swingman Clint Steindl in an 80-66 win over the Cougars on Saturday.
Waldow scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
"I'm starting to feel more and more comfortable in the post as each games goes on," Waldow said. "I'm hoping to have even better games as we go on."
Steindl added 16 points off the bench, 14 of which came in the first half on 4 of 6 3-point shooting when the Gaels opened up a 40-28 halftime lead.
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"[Steindl] is the reason why they got out of a zone and had to man us. That was big time by Clint. Big shots and a big game," Waldow said.
St. Mary's (21-3, 10-0 West Coast) also got 13 points and nine rebounds from Jones and Dellavedova added 10, but most of those points came after the Gaels were ahead by 23 early in the second half.
"We keep improving and that's the whole deal," St. Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "You've got to improve from January to February and February to March. We've been on a pretty good run as far as getting better. That's what we've got to focus on."
The Cougars (18-6, 6-3) were led by Noah Hartsock and Matt Carlino, who scored 15 points. Brandon Davies added 14 points and seven rebounds.
St. Mary's used a 10-0 run to build its 40-28 halftime lead, and stretched the margin to 23 points at the 16:49 mark of the second half.
BYU cut the lead to nine, but could never get closer.
"It seems like every chance we had to make a breakthrough that St. Mary's made a big play," BYU coach Dave Rose said.
St. Mary's and BYU spent most of the first half using their inside game.
The difference in the opening 20 minutes, however, was Steindl. With the game tied 13-13, Steindl came off the bench to hit his first 3 from the right corner to give the Gaels the lead.
The Cougars got back to 22-20 on a Hartsock score, but Waldow then broke loose for seven points in the paint and another Steindl 3 pushed St. Mary's to a 32-20 lead.
After taking a 12-point lead into the break, St. Mary's widened the margin to 55-32 when Dellavedova and Jorden Page each hit a 3 and Waldow added two more baskets in the paint.
The Cougars went on a 15-5 run to cut the St. Mary's lead to 60-47, but the teams traded baskets for the next several minutes to keep the Gaels' margin at 13.
BYU, which struggled with St. Mary's physical play, couldn't find a third consistent scorer until Carlino scored 11 straight for the Cougars to make it 70-61.
"We wanted to stop the inside scoring with Davies and Hartsock. If we stopped the inside scoring, we could try and make Carlino win the game for them. That was our goal," Waldow said.
St. Mary's was able to hang on, however, when BYU turned the ball over on two straight possessions and missed seven straight shots. The Gaels hit 8 of 10 free throws down the stretch to finish things off.
"We just tried to make them make tough shots," Bennett said. "They're going to score and they're going to get the ball [inside] and you can't keep that from happening. So we just wanted to limit the number of easy baskets they got."
The Gaels shot 56 percent from the floor to only 41 percent for the Cougars.
St. Mary's hit 7 of 18 shots from 3-point range, with BYU hitting only 2 of 13 long-range shots.
The Gaels also made 25 of 33 from the line. The Cougars were 14 of 22 from the line. St. Mary's won despite turning the ball over 24 times.
"We were prepared and we were ready to fight the storm," Waldow said.