PHOENIX (AP) — Aidan Mahaney scored 20 points, Alex Ducas added 17 and Saint Mary's knocked off No. 22 San Diego State 68-61 in the Jerry Colangelo Classic on Saturday.
Two of the nation’s best defensive teams got offensive early at the home of the NBA's Phoenix Suns before the Gaels (8-3) tightened up to take a nine-point second-half lead.
The Aztecs (7-3) took their turn clamping down to pull within 59-56, but Saint Mary's quickly pushed the lead back to seven. Saint Mary's hit 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to knock off the Aztecs a week after playing a close game again top-ranked Houston.
Matt Bradley had 13 points and Keshad Johnson added 12 to lead San Diego State, which shot 3 of 15 from the 3-point arc.
“You got to shoot better, and we’ve got to finish better around the basket,” San Diego State assistant coach Chris Acker said. “Credit to Saint Mary’s for making every finish tough and contesting all of our shots
Saint Mary’s arrived in the desert No. 8 in defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, and San Diego State was No. 18.
So, of course, the game turned into an offensive showdown.
Ducas scored in a variety of ways, putting up 10 points in the first 7 1/2 minutes and 14 by halftime. Johnson took his turn next, scoring eight quick points, and the Gaels shot 13 of 24 in the first half.
San Diego State made 13 of 26 shots in the first half, the last Micah Parrish's 3-point half-court heave at the buzzer to tie the game at 35-all.
Saint Mary's started clamping down defensively in the second half, holding San Diego State scoreless for more than five minutes to build a five-point lead. The Aztecs finally hit a shot but went on another scoreless drought of nearly four minutes, falling behind 59-50 on a 3-pointer by Ducas.
San Diego State tried to fight back, but the Gaels pushed them away to pull out a key nonconference win.
San Diego State: The mercurial offense flamed out in the second half in a loss that may knock the Aztecs out of next week's AP Top 25.
Saint Mary's: The Gaels turned up the defensive pressure in the second half to take the lead and kept their poise down the stretch in a game that could look awfully good come Selection Sunday.
Adam Seiko was a key in San Diego State's 63-53 win over Saint Mary's last season, hitting all four of his 3-point attempts while scoring 12 points.
The Gaels clearly put a point of emphasis on not letting him do it again, holding the starting guard to no points on 0-for-2 shooting in 16 minutes.
“They did a great job not letting him get a touch,” Acker said. "Other guys have to step up and make shots and we didn’t do that tonight.”
San Diego State: Hosts Kennesaw State on Monday.
Saint Mary's: Hosts New Mexico State on Wednesday.
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