Freshman Mills has very g’day for Gaels
It took Patrick Mills all of 11 seconds to announce his arrival at the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic.
After Saint Mary's won the opening tip, the Gaels' heralded freshman point guard got the ball in the left corner and zipped past a Tulane defender along the baseline for a layup.
Mills' quickness continued to give the Green Wave fits throughout the opening-round game as he sparked Saint Mary's to a 64-57 win last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
With his parents making the trip from Australia to see him play a college game for the first time, Mills ignited the Gaels with a game-high 23 points, 15 coming in the first half as Saint Mary's established control of the contest.
"I feel being a point guard, that's what you need to do," Mills said. "You need to take control of the team. That's what I felt today, to come out of the blocks and be aggressive."
The Gaels (8-1), who earlier this month made their first appearance in the national polls in 18 years, advanced to tonight's semifinals to face East Tennessee State at 5 p.m. Ohio plays Louisiana-Lafayette at 7:30.
Tulane (6-4) fell into the consolation bracket to face Georgia this afternoon.
Mills joined the Saint Mary's program with some impressive credentials. He was the youngest player ever invited to the Australian National Team's training camp and played in an Olympic qualifying event this summer, helping Australia earn a spot in the Beijing Games.
His point total last night was his second highest of the season, trailing only a 37-point performance in an upset of Oregon in November. Mills scored nearly half of Saint Mary's points in the first half as the Gaels took a 32-20 lead into halftime and never trailed.
The 6-footer used his quickness to attack the basket, either knifing through the defense or drawing fouls along the way and also hit two 3-pointers.
"He has a good feel for the game," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "I'd like to take credit for it, but I can't."
While Mills triggered the Saint Mary's offense, Bennett was also pleased with the teams effort on defense and on the boards.
Saint Mary's held Tulane to just one field goal in the final 9 minutes of the first half, outscoring the Green Wave 15-4 in that span, and outrebounded the Green Wave 41-36. Forward Diamon Simpson contributed 11 of those rebounds, including three of Saint Mary's 15 off the offensive glass.
Tulane's 57 points matched the lowest total given up by Saint Mary's this season. Tulane guard Kevin Sims scored 16 of his team-high 18 points in the second half, but Tulane, hampered by 19 turnovers, couldn't catch the Gaels.
"Saint Mary's did a good job of pressuring us in the halfcourt and they took us out of a lot of things we wanted to run," Tulane coach Dave Dickerson said. "They were the quicker team today."
East Tennessee State 76, Georgia 58
ETSU guard Courtney Pigram scored 18 points and the Buccaneers (5-5) of the Atlantic Sun Conference knocked off the Bulldogs (6-2) from the Southeastern Conference.
Forwards Andrew Reed and Kenyona Swader finished with 14 points each as ETSU rebounded from a 50-point loss at Syracuse on Dec. 15 to hand Georgia its second loss in three appearances in the Classic.
Georgia forward Jeremy Price was the only Bulldog in double figures with 10 points. The Buccanneers held Sundiata Gaines, Georgia's leading scorer entering the game, to four points.