Tahlequah Daily Press

College Sports

March 20, 2013

Saint Mary’s beats Middle Tennessee to advance in NCAAs

DAYTON, Ohio — Matthew Dellavedova’s first shot from behind the arc was right on target. So was the next one less than a minute later.

Saint Mary’s career scoring leader had finally found his touch at tournament time.

Dellavedova emerged from a deep shooting slump by scoring 22 points on Tuesday night, and the Gaels got off to a good start in their second straight NCAA tournament appearance, beating Middle Tennessee 67-54 in the First Four.

Saint Mary’s (28-6) makes a quick trip to Auburn Hills, Mich., to play sixth-seeded Memphis on Thursday.

And the Gaels can thank their point guard, who is back in the flow. He’d been only 1 of 18 from behind the arc coming into the game, though no one would know it by the way that first one went in.

“There was no sigh of relief,” Dellavedova said. “Somebody had told me that I was 1 for 18 in my last three (games). That didn’t even enter my head. I’ve always got confidence the next one’s going down.”

Saint Mary’s, a No. 11 seed, is making back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for the first time in its history. The Gaels were a 10th seed when they reached the round of 16 in 2010 before losing to Baylor. Not so good last year, when they dropped their opening game to Purdue 72-69 as a No. 7 seed.

With four starters back and Dellavedova handling the ball and making the biggest shots, the Gaels were too much for Middle Tennessee (28-6), which was making its first NCAA tournament appearance in 24 years.

Credit Dellavedova for making a difference, as he has all season. The point guard went 7 of 14 from the field, including 5 of 7 behind the arc, and had four assists and six rebounds.

“When he does that, he may be the best point guard in college basketball, when he shoots the ball like that,” Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis said.

Tweety Knight led Middle Tennessee with 16 points. The Blue Raiders went only 4 of 12 from behind the arc, hitting one fewer 3-pointer than Dellavedova.

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