Diamon Simpson and Patrick Mills paced the Gaels with 19 points.
Saint Mary’s improved to 15-1 overall and 2-0 in WCC play as it extended the nation’s fourth longest win streak to 12 games. The Dons dropped to 8-9 overall and 0-2 to start conference play.
Omar Samhan added 17 points and missed just one shot the entire game. Samhan went 6-for-6 from the floor and was 5-for-6 from the free throw line, while adding six rebounds and one block in 23 minutes. Samhan scored 12 points in the first half, and scored eight of the first 10 points of the game for the Gaels.
Mills led the Gaels with 19 points as the sophomore connected on 6-of-13 shots from the floor in the game. Mills hit two threes and converted on 5-of-6 attempts from the foul line. He also added three assists in 29 minutes of action.
Simpson notched his team-leading 9th double-double of the season, as he extended his streak of 10 or more rebounds to 10 games. He finished the game with 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for his 29th career double-double. Carlin Hughes got hot down the stretch of the game to finish with 11 points to go along with a game-high four assists.
SMC shot 42.6 percent from the field, but struggled once again from 3-point land, shooting just 21 percent, making 5-of-23 from beyond the arc. The Gaels out rebounded the undersized Dons 39-29, while holding USF to 34.7 percent shooting from the floor and 28.6 percent from 3-point range.
Saint Mary’s opened a 15-8 lead nine minutes into the first half, as Samhan and Mills combined to score all 15 points for the Gaels. Samhan scored eight of the first 10 points for the Gaels, and a three by Mills from the left corner had the Gaels up 15-6 at the 11:42 mark. After the Mills three, Dior Lowhorn hit a three from the left wing at the 9:15 mark to cap a 10-2 run by the Dons, cutting the SMC lead to 17-16.
After the Dons cut the deficit to one, the Gaels out scored USF 18-6 to close the half with 35-22 lead. The Gaels did most of the damage on the scoreboard with Mills on the bench, as he picked up his second foul at the 8-minute mark. With Mills on the bench, Saint Mary’s outscored the Dons 15-5. Mills and Samhan finished the half with 12 points each.
Saint Mary’s opened its lead to 18 points (46-28) when Clint Steindl hit his only 3-pointer of the game at the 12:36 mark. The Dons chipped away that the Gaels’ lead, getting as close at 51-39 following a 3-pointer by Peter Smith from the left corner with 6:15 left on the clock.
Saint Mary’s struggled to score down the stretch, as the Dons’ defense went into a zone the final 8-minutes of the game. Against the USF zone, the Gaels scored seven points the floor the final 8:24 of the game, but got 10 points from the free throw line to put to bed any chance of a Dons’ comeback. A three by Lowhorn with 14 seconds left cut the SMC advantage to 66-54.
Saint Mary’s will return to West Coast Conference play on Thursday when the Gaels host the Loyola Marymount Lions. The game between SMC and LMU will tip-off at 6 p.m. from McKeon Pavilion and will be televised Comcast SportsNet California.