Saint Mary’s earns thrilling win over Santa Clara

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MORAGA, Calif. (AP)—Patty Mills hit a long 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds remaining and finished with a season-high 31 points and cold-shooting Saint Mary’s held off archrival Santa Clara in a thrilling final minute for a 63-62 win in the West Coast Conference opener for both schools Friday night.

Freshman Kevin Foster hit a go-ahead 3 for Santa Clara with 12 seconds left on the way to a career-best 31 points before Mills came up big on the other end in a wild ending that featured three lead changes in the last 42.3 seconds. Saint Mary’s (14-1) extended its winning streak to 11 games—the second-longest in school history behind a 13-game run during the 1958-59 season.

Mills missed a pair of free throws with 47.5 seconds left after an intentional foul, then made two at 42.3 seconds before Foster’s fifth 3 of the night. Foster shot 11-for-19 and also had three steals.

Mills made a tying 3 with 3:04 left and also had four steals. Omar Samhan grabbed 15 rebounds and had two of his four blocked shots on one second-half possession for the Gaels, who overcame a terrible night of perimeter shooting with strong defense on Santa Clara’s 6-foot-11, 275-pound John Bryant. He was held to eight points but had nine rebounds and five blocked shots for the Broncos (7-10). Bryant missed two free throws with 3:36 to play.

Diamon Simpson, who recently became the school’s all-time rebounding leader, pulled down 11 boards to go with nine points for Saint Mary’s. A raucous, standing-room only crowd of more than 3,500 packed into McKeon Pavilion for the televised matchup and fans chanted “Patty! Patty!” after the final buzzer sounded. The Gaels have another tough one against a Bay Area rival on Sunday when they play across the bay at San Francisco.

Saint Mary’s, the WCC’s top scoring team at 78.2 points coming in, improved to 6-0 at home and did a good job penetrating to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line in the second half. The Gaels shot 33 percent and went 5-for-25 from 3-point range but held a 44-37 rebounding edge to earn their third straight victory in the series after taking both meetings last season. Santa Clara won all three matchups the previous year, including in the WCC tournament in coach Dick Davey’s final season.

The game featured three of the top-20 rebounders in the country—Bryant at fourth, Simpson seventh and Samhan 20th.

Simpson and Samhan are trying to become the first teammates to finish the season averaging a double-double since 1992-93. Simpson was honored before tipoff for becoming the Gaels’ career rebounding leader, presented with a plaque by the man whose record he broke, Tom Meschery. Meschery had 916 rebounds from 1958-61.

The Broncos have been inconsistent, beating UTEP on Dec. 30 only to turn around and lose at Harvard and New Hampshire to finish their nonconference schedule.

Mills missed seven of his first 10 shots, including five of seven 3s, and Saint Mary’s started 3-for-16 from 3-point range. The Gaels trailed 29-26 at the break for their second-lowest scoring first half this season.

Santa Clara, which committed seven turnovers in the opening 12 minutes, missed its first nine 3-point tries before Foster connected at the 15:15 mark of the second half.

Chris Mullin, the Golden State Warriors’ executive vice president of basketball operations, sat courtside as has been his regular practice at many local college games this season.

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