Gaels follow upset of Oregon with 84-63 win over Nicholls State
MORAGA, Calif. (AP)—Diamon Simpson had 15 points, six rebounds and three steals and Saint Mary’s followed a thrilling upset of Oregon with an 84-63 victory over Nicholls State on Saturday to stay unbeaten.
Patty Mills added 11 points and five assists one game after scoring a freshman school-record 37 points, again doing a fine job taking care of the ball in only his fifth college game. It’s a matchup that featured five other players from Australia on the floor with him during some stretches.
Ian O’Leary scored 15 points as the Gaels used another balanced offensive attack to improve to 5-0, the school’s best start since winning its first five games in the 1993-94 season. The Gaels stunned the 12th-ranked Ducks and former Saint Mary’s coach Ernie Kent 99-87 on Tuesday night. Omar Samhan had six boards and three blocked shots for Saint Mary’s.
Adonis Gray and Michael Czepil each scored 13 points to lead Nicholls State (1-5), which lost all three of their games during a swing through Northern California—also playing at California and UC Davis this past week.
Saint Mary’s is playing so well partly because of the way the Gaels share the ball, making the extra pass to create open shots and taking care of the ball. They did commit an uncharacteristic 18 turnovers after having only 12 total in the two previous games combined.
Mills did all the little things right, again exhibiting the poise beyond his first-year status. He hustled to save the ball from going out of bounds and generate another chance on offense, then drew a charge on the defensive end.
Mills, who helped Australia qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, had five assists in the first 8 1/2 minutes of a game played in a much more subdued atmosphere at McKeon Pavilion, where most of the students who packed the gym for the sold-out Oregon game were still away from campus for Thanksgiving.
Mills is 25-for-26 at the free-throw line for the season.
The teams have a combined nine active Australian players, not to mention Saint Mary’s redshirt Ben Allen. The common denominator is Saint Mary’s assistant David Patrick, in his second season after a year at Nicholls State. Colonels coach J.P. Piper coached the Bermuda-born Patrick in his senior year of high school after he came to the United States following 10 years in Australia.
The Colonels cut the lead to 50-40 on a basket by Anatoly Bose with 12:25 remaining, but from there Saint Mary’s quickly built its biggest lead of 22 points.
Nicholls State, from Thibodaux, La., fell way behind early and couldn’t recover against the more athletic Gaels on the way to its fourth straight loss.
Saint Mary’s made 10 of its first 16 shots, including 4-of-7 3s and two of those by O’Leary, on the way to a 38-25 lead at the break.