MORAGA, Calif. (AP) Aidan Mahaney matched his career high of 25 points and made five 3-pointers, and No. 23 Saint Mary’s avenged last season’s home loss to New Mexico with a 72-58 win over the Lobos on Thursday night.
The Gaels (2-0) dominated at both ends of the court and led by 22 before coasting over the final eight minutes.
“We’re really talented and we’re really deep.” Mahaney said. “I feel like our continued growth is really important. I don’t think we’re anywhere close to how good we can be.”
Both Mahaney and coach Randy Bennett were pleased with the Gaels’ defense but critical of the offense. Saint Mary’s committed 13 turnovers that led to 11 points for New Mexico. The Gaels were also outscored 33-32 in the second half.
“Our defense was why we won tonight,” Bennett said. “We’re better than that offensively but we have to keep improving. We have to be able to handle all situations. But because we’re good defensively we were able to separate in the game and get up by 20.”
The Gaels never trailed, forced 13 turnovers, held a 41-37 advantage in rebounds and scored 17 second-chance points.
Harry Wessels added 12 points, the only other Saint Mary’s player to score in double figures.
The win took a little sting out of the Gaels’ 69-65 loss to the Lobos a year ago, a victory that snapped Saint Mary’s school-record, 23-game winning streak at home.
This one wasn’t even close.
Mahaney shot 9 of 19 and grabbed four rebounds in his big night. It’s the third time in two seasons at Saint Mary’s that Mahaney has scored 25 points.
Donovan Dent had 15 points and five assists for New Mexico. The Lobos played without Jaelen House, a preseason All-Mountain West pick who has been plagued by a hip injury.
Without House, New Mexico’s offense never got going consistently.
“We were more ready for the moment last year than we were this year,” Lobos coach Richard Pitino said.
Two days after opening the season with a blowout win over Division II Stanislaus behind a stifling defense and steady perimeter shooting, the Gaels followed the same recipe early against the Lobos.
Saint Mary’s shot nearly 67% before the half and made four 3-pointers, all by Mahaney, while nearly doubling New Mexico in rebounds (25-13) and led 40-25.
New Mexico: The Lobos fell behind by double digits early and never recovered. Two of the top scorers, Dent and JT Toppin, were in foul trouble for much of the second half, limiting their availability.
Saint Mary’s: Strong defense has historically been a staple of Bennett’s teams, and this season is no different. The Gaels aren’t overly big but played solid interior defense and got a huge game from Mahaney. This was a big win but things won’t get easier with Weber State coming to town Sunday.
New Mexico: Face Texas-Arlington Nov. 16.
Saint Mary’s: Hosts Weber State on Sunday.
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