AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Matthew Dellavedova caught the ball and took one more 3-pointer.
It was about as good a scenario as Saint Mary's could have hoped for, especially since the Gaels were trailing by five moments earlier. But Dellavedova, the school's career leader in scoring, missed long as time expired.
"As soon as Delli got the ball in the corner, we all thought it was going to go in," Saint Mary's forward Brad Waldow said. "We knew it was going to go in, but it just didn't fall. That's it."
Dellavedova and Saint Mary's nearly pulled off an NCAA tournament upset Thursday, but sixth-seeded Memphis held on for a 54-52 win over the 11th-seeded Gaels. The Tigers led by 15 in the first half but nearly gave the game away in the final seconds.
With Memphis (31-4) ahead 54-49, Eividas Petrulis banked in a 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds to play. The Tigers then lost the ball when the Gaels' Jordan Giusti deflected the inbound pass off Joe Jackson of Memphis and out of bounds.
"I should've called a timeout. It was my fault, but I just wanted to get it in to one of our best free throw shooters," Memphis sophomore Adonis Thomas said. "It bounced off Joe. It was on me. I should've called a timeout at the end, but the game was going so fast."
Saint Mary's (28-7) was out of timeouts but had a chance to regroup while officials reviewed the previous sequence. It didn't matter. Dellavedova was able to get a shot off, but it missed everything.
It was the first win in the NCAA tournament for Memphis since 2009, when John Calipari was still coach. The Tigers face third-seeded Michigan State on Saturday.
D.J. Stephens had nine points and eight blocks for Memphis, and Jackson had 14 points and seven assists. Waldow scored 17 points to lead Saint Mary's.
Dellavedova had 10 points, seven assists and six turnovers in 40 minutes. He was distraught in the locker room afterward, but he leaves quite a legacy at Saint Mary's.
"Wish he would have hit that last shot, and so does he," coach Randy Bennett said. "Matt wasn't the problem at all. Matt was the solution. Matt was why we had a chance at the end."
The Gaels beat Middle Tennessee on Tuesday night in the First Four, but they fell way behind in the first half against Memphis and struggled all game with the Tigers' athleticism, especially around the basket.
Memphis finished with 12 blocks. Saint Mary's had none.
The Tigers led 32-22 at halftime. Dellavedova started the second half with a 3-pointer, and the Gaels trailed by only five at 32-27 before Geron Johnson scored on a tip-in for Memphis.
Waldow then had his shot blocked twice in a 15-second span, once by Stephens and once by Tarik Black. Even Stephens' less successful plays were spectacular, like a missed dunk off an offensive rebound with about 15:30 to play.
Beau Levesque had a chance to tie it for Saint Mary's with a 3-pointer, but the ball came out of his hands awkwardly, and the shot ended up missing everything.