Saint Mary’s tops New Mexico State 100-68
MORAGA, Calif. (AP) – Ben Allen has his confidence back and he’s got his scoring touch back, too.
Allen had career highs of 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, freshman Matthew Dellavedova added 19 points and Saint Mary’s beat New Mexico State 100-68 in the season opener for both teams Friday night.
“He’s really a good offensive player, he just needed minutes,” Gaels coach Randy Bennett said of his senior forward. “He played really well last year early on, but he just couldn’t crack (the lineup) and eventually he lost a little bit of confidence and quit working. He knows this is it. That clicked in.”
Wayne Hunter scored 19 points and Omar Samhan added 12 points and five rebounds for the Gaels, who were playing their first game without Patty Mills, the stellar point guard from Australia who left for the NBA following his sophomore season last year.
St. Mary’s, which finished 28-7 and reached the NIT quarterfinals in 2008, led by as many as 31 while getting five players in double figures.
“Omar said it best, we’re not rebuilding, we’re remodeling,” Allen said. “I worked hard this summer because I wanted to show (Bennett) that I can be the guy at the four. I knew this was my senior year, and I wanted to make it worth it.”
Hamidu Rahman had a career-high 22 points and eight rebounds for New Mexico State, which shot just 37 percent in the first half and trailed by as much as 31.
“We struggled from the floor but they aided in our low shooting percentage,” Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said. “Superstars come and go but programs stay the same. They’ve got a great program.”
Even without Mills, the Gaels still have a heavy down-under influence.
Allen, one of five Australians on Saint Mary’s roster, scored on an offensive rebound early in the second half to give Saint Mary’s a 53-28 lead as the crowd broke into chants of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi” while a fan waved a large Australian flag.
Allen averaged just 2.2 points while playing little more than nine minutes a game last season but is expected to pick up some of the scoring load left vacant by the departure of Mills and Diamon Simpson, the third-leading scorer in school history.
He showed he is capable against the Aggies, coming within one assist of his first career triple-double while leading Saint Mary’s to its most lopsided win since beating Pepperdine 96-46 on Jan. 17, 2008. The Gaels also improved to 25-2 in their last 27 home games against non-conference opponents.
Dellavedova, who played on Australia’s top national team this past summer, made two of his three 3-pointers in the second half and finished with four assists.
The Gaels had 12 3-pointers as a team, more than they did in any of their final 11 games last season.
New Mexico State couldn’t keep up despite a strong night from Rahman, who went 7 of 11 from the floor.
The Aggies return all five starters from last year’s team that finished 17-15 and placed third in the Western Athletic Conference in coach Marvin Menzies’ second season. The leader of that group, Young, averaged 17.9 points a game as a sophomore but wasn’t very sharp in the opener, going 6 of 16 from the floor.
Outside of Rahman, no one for New Mexico State shot very well. The Aggies missed 15 of their first 21 attempts and didn’t have a player score more than five points until Rahman’s lay-up with 2:32 left in the first half.
Saint Mary’s had no such problem. Allen, Hunter and Dellavedova had seven points apiece in the first half, with Allen adding six assists and five rebounds as the Gaels led 41-26 at halftime.
Allen made another pair of free throws with 15:21 remaining to put Saint Mary’s ahead 60-29 before Rahman scored six straight points for New Mexico State. But the Aggies, who won the only other meeting between the two schools in 2000, couldn’t get any closer.