MORAGA — It had been a while since University of San Diego basketball players had packed a suitcase for a road game. Forty-one days to be exact.
Apparently the Toreros did not forget what to bring and how to act, dominating St. Mary's, 76-65, in front of 2,585 fans at the McKeon Pavilion.
They brought their inside game: John Jerome had a team-high 24 points and Dondi Bell added nine points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
They remembered to pack their shooting touch: 53.4% from the field, including five of seven from three-point range. Junior Pat Holbert, who started for only the second time this season, had a season-high 15 points making four of five from beyond the 19-foot-9 arc. Craig Cottrell added 11 off the bench on four of six shooting.
The Toreros also played a fierce man-to-man defense, limiting the Gaels to 37.9% shooting.
"It was a good road win," Jerome said. "It's tough to win on the road."
In its first West Coast Conference game on the road this season, USD managed something it had accomplished just once each of the past two seasons--a victory.
USD (7-9, 2-2 in the WCC) moved into a tie for third in the conference with Santa Clara and St. Mary's (5-11).
In the last two WCC seasons, USD was 2-14 on the road. It managed just a 53-31 rout at Portland last year and a 66-61 victory here at St. Mary's in 1987-88.
"(Being on) the road didn't seem to bother us tonight," USD Coach Hank Egan said.
USD trailed just three times, the last, 17-16, with 10:55 left in the first half. That's when St. Mary's went cold, and Jerome got hot.
Jerome, the Toreros' leading scorer averaging nearly 19-points per game, scored the next eight points before teammate Holbert completed a rare four-point play when he was fouled on a successful three-point attempt.
The somewhat sloppy first half ended when USD's Kelvin Woods made a layup to give the Toreros a 37-28 lead.
USD made the first two baskets of the second half--Wayman Strickland made a 10-foot jumper and Bell an easy inside shot--and later had a 9-0 run that would give them a 56-40 lead with 12:19 left.
It took its biggest lead (62-43) on Holbert's fourth three-pointer with 10:21 left. "I was really looking for Dondi and John inside because I knew they could really take advantage of (St. Mary's) smaller guys. And when it wasn't there . . ."
Holbert has now made 22 of 39 from three-point range this season.
"It's been working. I'm comfortable with it," Holbert said.
St. Mary's stayed somewhat close making eight three-pointers. But the Gaels also missed 18 from there and more often than not, a Torero grabbed the rebound.
John Levitt scored 23 of his game-high 27 points--including six of eight three-point shots--in the second half.
USD plays at San Francisco (5-12, 1-2) tonight.