MORAGA, Calif. (AP) -Patrick Mills scored 27 points and added six steals and five assists, and Saint Mary's made a statement for breaking into the Top 25 with a 99-85 victory over Fresno State in a game that ended early Tuesday morning.
The matchup was one of 14 games being played as part of ESPN's College Hoops Tip-off Marathon and started at 11 p.m. local time. The student section rocked at McKeon Pavilion for the nationally televised contest, and new West Coast Conference commissioner Jamie Zaninovich was in attendance despite the late hour.
Omar Samhan added 18 points, including six during a 12-2 spurt to start the second half, and added 13 rebounds. Diamon Simpson had 10 points, 10 boards and three blocks for the Gaels, picked to place second in the WCC behind eight-time defending regular-season champion Gonzaga. They received 108 votes in this week's poll, released Monday.
Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett has one of his deepest rosters ever and returns four starters from a team that lost to Miami in the first round of last season's NCAA tournament.
Paul George had 25 points and 10 rebounds and Mychal Ladd added 13 for scrappy Fresno State, a young team featuring eight newcomers and just one senior in Dwight O'Neil. O'Neil had 12 points and nine assists and was whistled for a flagrant foul for taking Mills down hard on a breakaway with 8:04 to play. Sylvester Seay added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Bulldogs.
Both teams came out running and established their transition games early, with Saint Mary's capitalizing on Fresno State's eight first-half turnovers.
Mills scored nine points during a 13-2 run late in the first half that put Saint Mary's ahead 45-28. Mickey McConnell's 3-pointer 3:05 before halftime gave the Gaels a 20-point cushion.
Mills, a speedy sophomore guard, shot 9-for-21 with four 3s and is clearly more confident this season coming off a successful Olympics with the Australian national team in Beijing.
Saint Mary's shot 49 percent in the first half and hit 7 of 14 3-pointers on the way to a 55-42 lead at the break.
The Gaels lead the all-time series 19-16, and this marked the Bulldogs' first game in Moraga since 1997. Saint Mary's won 77-68 in a meeting last season at Fresno State.
A moment of silence was held before the national anthem for Hall of Fame basketball coach Pete Newell, who died Monday at age 93. He coached in the Bay Area at both California and San Francisco.
Game Notes Saint Mary's vs. Fresno State
- Both Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson posted double-doubles. Samhan finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds for his ninth career double-double, while Simpson posted his 21st career double-double.
- The Gaels continue their streak of at least one three a game to 476 games, hitting 9 three’s against Fresno State.
- Randy Bennett continues a successful carrier at home, winning 55 of the last 67 games played in McKeon Pavilion.
- In their last 21 games when scoring over 70 points, the Gaels are 20-1.
- Saint Mary’s once again showed its depth, playing 12 players, 11 with significant minutes and contributions.
- As with the last meeting between the Gaels and the Bulldogs four or more SMC players scored in double digits.
- The last time Saint Mary’s had five players score in double digits was when they had six against Pepperdine last season.
- Mills posted his ninth career 20-point game as a Gael.
- Yusef Smith scored 10 points for his sixth career game in double figures.
- Ben Allen scored a career-high 10 points.