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Saturday, September 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gonzaga takes over top spot in WCC

Back with the game story from GU's 69-62 win over Saint Mary's on Thursday. You can read an unedited version below and I'll have a day-after post in the morning.


By Jim Meehan


Staff writer


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 handed Saint Mary’s 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, which rallied for a 69-62 victory Thursday.


The 20th-ranked Bulldogs (15-4, 6-0 WCC), playing in front of a packed house of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center, won their seventh straight and took 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, but its more immediate concern is the extent of Mills’ injury.


“I just know his wrist is sore,” Gaels coach Randy Bennett said. “He’s a very tough kid and he couldn’t play the second half.”


Mills departed with 3:06 left in the first half. He sat on the bench with ice applied to his wrist in the second half.


“It’s unfortunate because it was a great game when he was in there, and it was a great game after he was out,” GU coach Mark Few said. “I hope he’s well because it’s great to have him in the league and he’s improved so much.


“But they’re a really good team without him, too. When you have (Omar) Samhan and Diamon (Simpson) down low and surround them with shooters, that’s a very good team.”


The Gaels made 7 of 13 3-pointers in the first half, including 6 of 8 by Mills. They missed their first 11 3-point attempts in the second half before connecting twice in the final 30 seconds. Saint Mary’s scored just 23 points in the second half.


“Once we realized he was out, it was just get out and pressure their guards,” Gonzaga’s Steven Gray said. “That’s taking out a big piece of their offense.”


Meanwhile, Gonzaga relied on its trademark balance. Matt Bouldin (17 points), 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 scored the first five points of the spurt.


The Gaels reclaimed the lead on 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.


“We did a great job of being patient and attacking when it was there, and sharing it,” Few said. “We switched some things (defensively) in the second half. Matt guarded Diamon for a while, Steven, Pargo and Micah did, too, just to give them a different look.”


Simpson scored 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 led 14-7 early, but Mills erased that in a hurry. He hit his first 3 at the 13:06 mark, and quickly followed that up with four more 3s over the next 5 minutes and 45 seconds to give the Gaels a 29-21 lead.


The Bulldogs pulled within five on Austin Daye’s first basket of the half, but Saint Mary’s scored the last four points of the half on Simpson’s dunk and Carlin Hughes’ off balance, underhand flip shot from 12 feet just before the buzzer.


Minus Mills, the Gaels’ misfired in the second half.


“We had some good looks that we missed,” Bennett said. “You have to do better than 2 of 14” from the 3-point line.


Gonzaga entertains San Diego (12-9, 4-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday while Saint Mary’s visits Portland (14-7, 5-1). The Zags and Gaels meet in two weeks in Moraga.




Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan joined The Spokesman-Review in 1990. Jim is currently a reporter for the Sports Desk and covers Gonzaga University basketball, Spokane Empire football, college volleyball and golf.

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