MORAGA, Calif. -- Mickey McConnell scored a career-high 22 points, Omar Samhan had 17 points and 12 rebounds and St. Mary's held on to beat Utah State (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, not ranked AP) 75-64 in a non-conference game on Saturday afternoon.
Diamon Simpson added 18 points and seven rebounds for the Gaels (22-5), who improved to 12-1 at home. The game was part of ESPN's BracketBuster series.Jared Quayle scored 22 points and Gary Wilkinson added 16 for Utah State (25-3), which lost on the road for just the second time this season.The Aggies, who were ranked No. 21 in the AP poll last week before falling to Boise State, have dropped two of three since their school record-tying 19-game winning streak.It was the first meeting between the two schools since 1978.Utah State trailed by 11 midway through the second half but pulled within 62-59 on Jared Quayle's 25-foot 3-pointer with 2:06 remaining. St. Mary's got a free throw from Samhan and Wayne Hunter followed with a 3-pointer but Quayle scored on a three-point play with 56.4 seconds left to make it 66-62.McConnell then sank five free throws down the stretch and Samhan blocked a driving layup attempt by Wilkinson with 33 seconds left to seal the win.McConnell, a sophomore making his fifth start in place of injured point guard Patty Mills, was nearly flawless offensively, going 6 of 6 from the floor and 9-for-11 from the free throw line to top his previous career high of 20 set a week ago against Portland.Utah State had held four of its last five opponents under 60 points but had no answer for St. Mary's trio of Samhan, McConnell and Simpson. The 75 points by the Gaels are the second-most the Aggies have allowed in their last 15 games.Samhan, matched against Wilkinson most of the afternoon, went 8 of 13 from the floor while notching his 11th double-double of the season and the 18th of his career. Simpson, meanwhile, had nine of his points over the final nine minutes when St. Mary's offense went cold, including an emphatic dunk with 3.7 seconds left.The Gaels improved to 4-3 without Mills, who broke two bones in his right hand against Gonzaga on Jan. 29. St. Mary's is hopeful that Mills, who sat courtside wearing a suit with his right hand in a protective brace, will return in time for the West Coast Conference tournament which begins the first weekend in March.