Jan. 30, 2009

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Patrick Mills and No. 22 Saint Mary's gave No. 20 Gonzaga all it could handle in the first half of Thursday night's widely anticipated showdown between the best teams in the West Coast Conference.

But Mills had to leave the game with a right wrist injury just before halftime, and the Zags rallied for a 69-62 victory that broke the nation's longest winning streak at 15 games and gave them sole possession of first place in the league.

"A win is a win for us," Gonzaga guard Jeremy Pargo said. "You've got to take what you can get. You never wish that anyone would get hurt. I'm hoping the best for him."

Mills scored 18 points as the Gaels (18-2, 5-1) took a 39-33 halftime lead. With 3 minutes left in the half the sophomore guard sprained the wrist on his shooting hand when he tried to break his fall as went down to the court.

His absence crippled the Gaels' offense as they scored only 23 points and shot just 33 percent in the second half.

"We beat a very, very, very good basketball team tonight," coach Mark Few said after Gonzaga (15-4, 6-0) won its seventh straight. "They are not all about Patty."

Matt Bouldin scored 17 points and Steven Gray added 14 as the Zags rallied for the win in front of a packed and frenzied house in the Kennel.

"It was easy to get pumped up for this one," Gray said.

Gonzaga had averaged winning margins of nearly 30 points in its five previous WCC wins.

Diamon Simpson was 7-of-7 from the field and had 17 points and 12 rebounds for Saint Mary's, which won the rebound battle 39-30, but committed 15 turnovers and went through a long stretch in the second half without scoring.

Saint Mary's is off to the best start in team history, and coach Randy Bennett had praise for his team.

"I thought we kept competing," Bennett said. "We just have to put the ball in the basket. I thought in other areas of the game we played pretty well."

Bennett said he did not yet know the extent of Mills' injury. He is averaging 18 points per game and has scored in double figures in all 20 games this season.

"His wrist is hurting," Bennett said.

The Gaels shot 48 percent in the first half, including 6-of-8 from 3-point range by Mills. But they were just 10-of-30 in the second half, including two meaningless 3-pointers at the end.

The Zags outscored the Gaels 13-6 in the opening minutes of the second half to take a 46-45 lead on Bouldin's driving layup.

After Saint Mary's took a 48-46 lead, the Zags ripped off 12 straight points for a 58-48 lead with 7:49 left and that stood up the rest of the game.

Gonzaga jumped to a 14-7 lead, but two 3-pointers by Mills brought the Gaels within 16-13. Simpson's dunk gave Saint Mary's a 20-19 lead. Mills hit three 3-pointers in the next 80 seconds to give Saint Mary's a 29-21 lead.

Mills, a native of Australia who played for its Olympic team in Beijing, matched his full-game average of 18 points in the first half.

"It's ridiculous. He can hit from anywhere," Gray said.

Pargo added 11 points and Austin Daye had 10 for the Zags, who committed only two turnovers in the second half.