Simpson's double-double send St. Mary's to easy victory

MORAGA, Calif. (AP) -- St. Mary's believes it should win every game considering its talent and depth.

When the Gaels (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) lost at San Diego last week, their were some bruised egos. So they took it out on Portland.

Ian O'Leary scored a season-high 20 points and St. Mary's pounded the Pilots 86-49 on Saturday night in its final tuneup before facing West Coast Conference unbeaten and rival Gonzaga.

This was the Gaels' first victory as a ranked team since late in the 1988-89 season, and came in their first home game during two stints in the AP poll this season -- though they might be bumped come Monday considering the team's 63-55 loss at San Diego on Jan. 28 that snapped a five-game winning streak.

"If we don't win every game, we take it personally," center Omar Samhan said. "The biggest thing we have to deal with is not giving teams any hope -- keep them down. Our goal is to win big every night."

Diamon Simpson had 13 points and 15 rebounds, Samhan added 18 points and eight boards and Tron Smith scored 10 off the bench for the Gaels (18-3, 5-1 WCC), who shot 54 percent and won for the 11th time in their last 13 meetings with the Pilots.

O'Leary swished a 3-pointer with 15:03 left that put Saint Mary's ahead 58-26. The Gaels shot 10-for-24 from 3-point range, committed
nine turnovers and had an answer each time the Pilots made a key play.

Next up is the highly anticipated showdown with perennial WCC power Gonzaga (17-5, 6-0) on national television Monday night -- and all the craziness of the standing-room only crowds that comes with this rivalry. The Gaels have beaten the Bulldogs at home in McKeon Pavilion two of the last three years, including last season.

"They're deeper than they've been in the past. So are we," O'Leary said. "We've played Oregon and Seton Hall here, those kind of crazy atmospheres. We feel good playing at home."

In last season's meeting here, Simpson scored a career-high 29 points and keyed a 19-2 second-half run as Saint Mary's handed Gonzaga its first conference loss in nearly two years, 80-75. It snapped the Zags' 26-game WCC winning streak and a 30-game winning streak against conference opponents including tournament play.

"That's one of the things of the past. Now, it's how can we get them now?" Simpson said.

The Zags -- the preseason favorite to earn their eighth straight WCC regular-season title -- needed two overtimes to win 87-82 at Santa Clara earlier Saturday, catching a break when Santa Clara's Brody Angley fouled and Steven Gray converted two free throws with three-tenths of a second left as the Bulldogs tied it to force overtime.

For St. Mary's, reserve Carlin Hughes dished out eight assists and gave freshman starting point guard Patty Mills a chance to rest up before Monday's game when he will likely play nearly the entire 40 minutes. Mills scored the first five points of a 7-0 Saint Mary's run to start the second half after the Gaels led 38-19 at the break, and he finished with eight, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

"I'll take one of these games any time, in any situation," St. Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "I really believe it's important to finish games well. It really affects how you play the next game. We haven't been in that many close games this year. We practice late-game situations in practice. I imagine Monday has a chance to be one of those close games."

Nik Raivio scored 18 points for cold-shooting Portland (7-15, 1-5). The team's second-leading scorer behind Raivio, Sherrard Watson added 11.

Coming off a 79-41 loss to Gonzaga in their previous game, the Pilots shot 37 percent, got outrebounded 43-27 and lost their fifth of six.

"They're a very talented basketball team," Portland coach Eric Reveno said. "If you're successful one possession taking something away, they can go to something else. They have that championship mentality."

These teams split their two regular-season meetings last season, then the Gaels earned an 87-47 victory in the WCC tournament last March.

The Pilots -- who beat Pepperdine 82-78 on Jan. 12 for their lone conference win -- missed their first four shots, all from close range. They started the game 3-for-13 while Saint Mary's made 8 of its first 13 from the field including three 3s on the way to a quick 22-8 lead.