Saint Mary’s defeats Eastern Washington 85-65
MORAGA, Calif. (AP)—Omar Samhan scored a career-high 29 points and Patty Mills added 19 as Saint Mary’s made its final case to the NCAA selection committee with an 85-65 victory over Eastern Washington on Friday night.
The Gaels (26-6) added this late game to their schedule last week in an effort to provide one more chance to prove to the committee that Mills has recovered from a broken hand and the team is worthy of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Gaels missed out on an automatic bid when they lost the WCC tournament final 83-59 to No. 12 Gonzaga on Monday night. Now they must wait until Sunday to find out whether they will return to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.
Mills started for the first time since breaking his right hand on Jan. 29 against Gonzaga. After breaking his hand, Mills missed the final nine regular-season games.
He returned for the conference tournament but came off the bench and was rusty, shooting 5-for-of 28 in a victory over Portland and the loss to Gonzaga.
Diamon Simpson added 15 points for Saint Mary’s, which set a school record for wins.
Brandon Moore scored 15 points to lead Eastern Washington (12-18, 6-10).
The Gaels were able to add the extra game because they had played one game short of the NCAA maximum, as had Eastern Washington, which failed to qualify for the Big Sky tournament.
Mills shot 6-for-14, including 4-for-9 from 3-point range. He had four steals and two assists in 33 minutes.
Mills scored 10 points in the first half, making two from long range to help the Gaels build a 38-31 lead.
Saint Mary’s quickly took control in the second half, going on a 19-5 run to take a 57-36 lead.
Samhan scored 10 points in the first half and exploded for 19 in the second. He dominated inside on both ends of the court.
Mills made two of his first five shots from long range. His 3-pointer from the top of the key tied the game at 18 with 9:01 left in the half. Mills missed his next two shots from beyond the arc, but he scored on an acrobatic shot in the key at the end of a one-man fast break, putting the Gaels ahead 28-23 late in the first half.
Mills struggled in Saint Mary’s loss to Gonzaga, missing his first seven shots and finishing with five points on 2-for-16 shooting. He missed all seven of his 3-point tries.
In the Gaels’ 71-61 victory over Portland in the semifinals, Mills came off the bench and scored 12 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
The Gaels were 18-1 when Mills broke his right hand during the first half against Gonzaga on Jan. 29. He scored 18 points before the injury, helping Saint Mary’s build a 39-33 halftime lead. Without Mills in the second half, the Gaels fell 69-62.
After that loss, the Gaels went 6-3 without Mills during the remainder of the regular season.