Redskins

Dellavedova lifts Saint Mary's to new heights

201301091141420928054-p2.jpeg

Dellavedova lifts Saint Mary's to new heights

MORAGA, Calif. (AP) From the moment he arrived at Saint Mary's as a shaggy-haired freshman from Australia with a multicolored mouth guard and an old-school game, it was clear Matthew Dellavedova would be something special.

In three-plus seasons with the Gaels, Dellavedova has backed that up with numerous school records and individual accolades, two conference tournament titles and NCAA tournament appearances, and an impressive stint as an Olympic starter matching up against NBA stars like Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Tony Parker.

Whether it's his court vision that allows him to see openings before they even develop, the passes that sometimes surprise even his teammates or the teardrop floaters and 3-pointers that have him on pace to be Saint Mary's all-time leading scorer, Dellavedova is the engine that drives the Gaels.

``He's as good as we've had. Just look at what he's done,'' coach Randy Bennett said. ``He continues to get better. That's a straight byproduct of his work ethic. He always has understood that he hasn't arrived. He's still trying to get better. He knows what it will take, it will take great attitude, hard work, be humble, those things.''

It's a fitting attitude for the Gaels' best player because it is the exact same approach Bennett wants for his program. After taking over a two-win team in 2001, Bennett has built Saint Mary's into a consistent winner with five straight 25-win seasons.

After years of chasing Gonzaga, the Gaels have caught up in the West Coast Conference in Dellavedova's first three seasons. Both programs won 36 conference games the past three seasons with each school taking one outright regular-season championship and sharing the third.

The Gaels won two of the past three WCC tournament titles, beating the Bulldogs in the final both times. In fact, after winning just three of the first 22 games against Gonzaga in Bennett's tenure, Saint Mary's has won four times in the past seven meetings, including a win in Spokane two years ago.

But there is no sense of satisfaction for Saint Mary's (12-3, 1-0) heading into the first meeting of the season against No. 9 Gonzaga (15-1, 2-0) on Thursday night in Spokane.

``They've done it for a long time,'' Dellavedova said. ``We're just trying to do our thing and keep getting better as a program ourselves because they've done it for so long. We're just trying to keep pushing hard to see how much better we can get.''

Having lost three times in the nonconference season, the Gaels have little margin for error if they want to make the NCAA tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. A road win against a top 10 team like Gonzaga would go a long way toward cementing that goal.

While that may seem like a daunting task on the surface, Dellavedova has faced much tougher competition than that in the past year. Dellavedova is one of two college basketball players who participated in last summer's Olympics, joining the College of Charleston's Andrew Lawrence, a reserve for Great Britain.

But Dellavedova started all six games in London, running the point for an Australian team that won three games. He averaged 7.3 points, 4.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 29 minutes per game against some of the top players in the world.

After posting three points, four assists and seven rebounds in a quarterfinal loss to the United States, Dellavedova even got some words of encouragement from Bryant.

``It gave me a taste of how good those guys are and how much you have to work to improve to get to that kind of level,'' Dellavedova said. ``Going against smart players who are physical, tall, it cuts down on your decision-making time. You have less space and time so you have to be sharper in your decision-making.''

Dellavedova has grown from that experience and is having his best season yet in college, posting career highs in points (17.4 per game), assists (6.7 per game), shooting (47 percent), 3-point shooting (42 percent) and foul shooting (91 percent). He is already the school-record holder in assists and 3-pointers and is on pace to break Daniel Kickert's career scoring record at Saint Mary's.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few called Dellavedova ``brilliant'' with the way he executes the ball screens that are so prevalent in Saint Mary's offense.

``It starts with him and it ends with him,'' Gonzaga star Elias Harris said. ``He's their main guy, and I agree with Coach Few that he's for sure one of the better guys in the nation when it comes to ball screen situations, the feel for a game and the way he reads the court and finds his teammates is incredible. It's really a load. It's hard, even as a team, to guard him. It's going to be a great challenge.''

But Bennett said Dellavedova's biggest skill might be his leadership and his ability to make his teammates better.

Bennett knew he was getting a good player when he got the commitment from Dellavedova. But after Dellavedova arrived, the Gaels realized they were getting so much more.

``I thought we should check his birth certificate because he played like a 25- or 30-year-old man, even as a freshman,'' said former Saint Mary's star center Omar Samhan, who played one season with Dellavedova. ``He just came in and had such a good feel for the game beyond his years. He always played beyond his years. That always stuck out to me.''

---

AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.

Quick Links

The Kapri Bibbs touchdown vs. the Cowboys was the very definition of team football

The Kapri Bibbs touchdown vs. the Cowboys was the very definition of team football

The obsession over how football is a team game, and how all 11 guys on the field matter on every single play, can be nauseating at times.

Plenty of things in an NFL contest happen because of one player beating another player. In other instances, it's about a single dude just absolutely screwing everything up all on his own (most often that dude is Blake Bortles).

But on Kapri Bibbs' 23-yard opening-drive touchdown catch vs. the Cowboys in Week 7, a ton of non-ball-carrying Redskins did in fact chip in to help get Bibbs into the end zone. It was one of those plays that just makes you want to scream FOOTBALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!

The first two 'Skins who deserve recognition on the score are Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff.

Lauvao, who was returning from injury, leaked out with Scherff and Chase Roullier to serve as Bibbs' personal, giant escorts to the goal line. He then showed excellent awareness to peel back and seal off Dallas D-linemen Antwaun Woods, which ended any hopes of a Cowboy catching Bibbs from behind.

The true hero, though, was Scherff. The human wood chipper got pieces of two opposing linemen before breaking out to the next level, diving and knocking Kavon Frazier out of Bibbs' path. Without Scherff's insane effort, the screen pass doesn't even result in positive yardage, let alone six points.

Here's a still image of the first two, key blocks:

Large Redskins weren't the only ones getting the job done in hand-to-hand combat, however. For a screen to elevate itself from solid play to major chunk play, you need receivers doing work well past the line of scrimmage, too.

Well, this screenshot of Josh Doctson and Brian Quick holding blocks at the sticks definitely qualifies as doing work:

And, lastly, there's the center, Roullier. The man who started the entire sequence with a snap from the 23-yard line eventually found himself at the 12, displacing Byron Jones to ensure that the home team's tailback would finish things dancing instead of getting up from the ground:

To enjoy the full FOOTBALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!-ness of the six-pointer, head to the 23-second mark of this video. Then, take a moment to reflect on all those poor Cowboys who thought they were going to tackle Kapri Bibbs throughout the course of that highlight, because they never really had a chance and that's just so sad for them.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

Quick Links

What exactly was Alex Smith thinking when he went out of bounds on the last drive?

What exactly was Alex Smith thinking when he went out of bounds on the last drive?

FEDEX FIELD -- Late in the Redskins win over the Cowboys, when the contest was still very much in question, Alex Smith made an incredibly poor decision. 

It was situational football at its peak. The Redskins had the ball with under 90 seconds left and a three point lead while Dallas had just one timeout left. A first down would end the game, but beyond getting a new set of downs, forcing Cowboys coach Jason Garrett to use his final timeout was the next highest priority. 

Somehow, Smith achieved neither. 

On third-and-9 from his own 36-yard-line, Smith took the snap and worked left on a play-action bootleg. There was room to run for a modest gain, but it seemed obvious Smith would not pick up the first down. 

Only Smith didn't see it that way. 

"I knew a first down would end the game and I did have glimpses of myself getting the first down whatever it took," the quarterback said. 

Instead of getting the first down, Smith got dragged out of bounds by Dallas LB Sean Lee. That stopped the clock for the Cowboys, and allowed Garrett to save his final timeout. 

Barring a turnover, it was the worst possible outcome on the play. 

What makes the situation so strange is that Smith is a very smart player. A 14-year veteran, Smith is known as a guy that won't make mistakes to hurt his team and gives his squad a chance for a win every week. Only late in the game, Smith tried to make the play to go for the win, and made a huge mistake instead. 

"I all of a sudden found myself pretty awkward on the sidelines there and can’t have it," Smith said. "[I] could have obviously cost us the game in hindsight at that point, I think kinda abandon ship and go down there on the sideline.”

The good news for Smith, and for the 4-2 Redskins, is that Cowboys kicker Brett Maher plunked the upright on his game-tying field goal attempt. An attempt that might not have happened if Smith stayed in bounds. 

In the end, it didn't cost the Redskins. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS: