Samhan, Gaels stay unbeaten with 85-70 victory over Seton Hall
MORAGA, Calif. (AP)—Omar Samhan scored six straight during a key second-half stretch and finished with 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds after a slow start, and Saint Mary’s remained unbeaten by handing Seton Hall its first loss with an 85-70 victory Saturday.
Patty Mills added 19 points, six rebounds and four assists, Diamon Simpson scored 15 and Todd Golden had 10 as the Gaels improved to 6-0, the program’s best start since winning nine straight to begin the 1988-89 season.
Brian Laing did all he could to keep Seton Hall (6-1) in it, scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the Pirates’ first trip to Saint Mary’s outside San Francisco.
Mills, whose 37-point performance in an upset of Oregon on Nov. 21 was a freshman school record, missed only his second free throw all season on his first attempt with 6:59 to play. He is 30-for-32 from the line and played all but the final 1:04 in this game.
Tron Smith gave the Gaels key minutes off the bench and everyone who played before garbage time scored at least one point. Saint Mary’s held a 47-40 rebounding edge and Golden again had an impressive game on both ends.
After the Gaels built their biggest lead at 61-39, Seton Hall went on a 9-0 run before Simpson sunk a baseline 3 at 10:13 and Mills scored the next time down.
It was a physical matchup featuring a pair of teams earning votes in the Top-25 poll, and a game that attracted a row of professional scouts.
Seton Hall starter Larry Davis picked up his fourth foul with 16:58 left and later fouled out with only six points and four rebounds.
The Pirates fell behind 13-2 early and shot 0-for-5 from 3-point range in the first half until Davis hit a 3 to start the second. Seton Hall was off to its best start since beginning 13-0 in 1988-89, when the school went on to reach the Final Four.
It was the Gaels’ first game in a week since they beat Nicholls State, while Seton Hall was coming off a 10-point win Wednesday at Princeton.
Saint Mary’s, expected to challenge favored Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference, had 11 turnovers—just four in the first half—after committing 18 in its last win. That came after the Gaels combined for 12 total in their two previous games.
Because of Mills and three other Aussies, the Australian flag is now hanging from a wall along one baseline in McKeon Pavilion, where another sellout crowd of 3,500 packed the gym for an intense preseason atmosphere after the Gaels stunned then-No. 12 Oregon 99-87 on Nov. 21.
“Undefeated!” the fans chanted in the waning seconds.
Both teams came out cold from the field, but the Gaels took advantage of four turnovers by Seton Hall in the first 4 1/2 minutes on the way to a 13-2 lead. That sparked a timeout by Pirates coach Bobby Gonzalez, who became a father for the first time Wednesday morning to a baby girl.
Saint Mary’s improved to 5-19 all-time against the Big East.
This was a return trip for Seton Hall after Saint Mary’s traveled east to New Jersey last year and the Pirates won 93-82 in overtime. Before that meeting, the programs hadn’t played since the 1983-84 season. This was the fifth meeting overall.