Read on for an unedited game story that I filed for first edition, and check back later for an expanded game story.
Saint Mary’s Patty Mills put on a show in the first half. Unfortunately for the Gaels, the sharp-shooting sophomore guard had to put on an ice bag for the second half.
Mills drained six 3-pointers, scored 18 points and staked Saint Mary’s to a six-point halftime lead, but a sprained right (shooting) wrist kept him on the bench for the second half and the Gaels were powerless to stop Gonzaga, who rallied for a 69-62 West Coast Conference men’s basketball victory Thursday.
The 20th-ranked Bulldogs (15-4, 6-0 WCC), playing in front of a boisterous crowd of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center, rode their trademark balanced offense to their seventh straight victory and sole possession of first place in the conference. No. 22 Saint Mary’s (18-2, 5-1) had its nation-leading 15-game winning streak snapped.
Guards Matt Bouldin (17 points), Steven Gray (14) and Jeremy Pargo (11) paced the Zags, who wiped out Saint Mary’s 39-33 halftime lead with a 13-6 run to open the second half. Gray had the first five points of the spurt.
The Gaels reclaimed the lead on Omar Samhan’s putback but Gonzaga responded with 12 unanswered points. Micah Downs’ dunk on a lob pass from Pargo gave GU the lead for good, 50-48, with 12:11 remaining.
The run continued with Gray burying an uncontested 3, Austin Daye driving for a bucket in the paint,
Saint Mary’s pulled within seven in the closing minutes, but the Bulldogs made 5 of 6 free throws in the last minute to retain a comfortable margin.
The Gaels were 7 of 13 on 3-pointers in the first half, including 6 of 8 by Mills. They didn’t make another 3 until the final two minutes and finished 9 of 26. After a 39-point first half, Saint Mary’s scored just 23 in the second half.
Diamon Simpson had 17 points – 7 of 7 field goals, but just 3 of 8 at the free-throw line – and grabbed 12 rebounds. Samhan was limited to eight points and seven rebounds, well below his season averages.
Gonzaga took the early lead, fueled by Gray’s two dunks, the last after he swiped the ball from Simpson. GU led 14-7 after Josh Heytvelt’s tip-in with 13:25 left, but Mills erased that in a hurry, often from 3-4 feet behind the 3-point arc.
Mills hit his first 3 at the 13:06 mark, and quickly followed that up with four more 3s in the next 5 minutes and 45 seconds to stake SMC to a 29-21 lead.
The Bulldogs pulled within five on Daye’s first basket of the half, but Saint Mary’s scored the last four points of the half – Simpson gathering up an errant shot and dunking the ball and Carlin Hughes making an off balance, underhand flip shot from 12 feet just before the buzzer.
Mills finished the half with six 3s and 18 points, but didn’t play the last 3 minutes after suffering the injury to his shooting hand. Simpson scored 10 points and collected seven rebounds, a statistic the Gaels dominated 20-14 in the first 20 minutes.
Bouldin had nine points and four boards in the first half to lead the Bulldogs, who were just 1 of 7 on 3-pointers.
Gonzaga entertains San Diego (12-9, 4-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday while Saint Mary’s visits