Gaels gone - what next for Patty?

Gaels gone - what next for Patty?

Patty Mills’ college basketball season – and possibly his college basketball career – ended this afternoon when the San Diego State Aztecs topped the St. Mary’s College Gaels 70-66 in the Quarter Finals of the NIT.

Trailing by 13 points in the second half the Gaels rallied to tie the game at 64-64 when two minutes remained  before missed opportunities and costly turnovers put the kibosh on any fairytale comeback.

Mills was the game's high scorer with 18 points on a rough 7-of-24 shooting night and fouled out of the game when 10.8 seconds remained. He connected on 4-of-13 three-pointers and added 5 assists in a gallant performance.

Perth’s Carlin Hughes was arguably the Gaels’ best player on the night and finished with 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting, while Billy White was the top scorer for the Aztecs with 17 points.

After the maximum four years with the St. Mary’s program it is hoped Hughes will return to Australia’s national league to showcase his skills and while nothing is certain for Hughes, the future remains less clear for Mills.

A terrific Olympic campaign and a stellar sophomore season has set tongues wagging in professional circles about the six foot guard from Canberra, but he remains eligible for a further two years of college basketball.

Whether he declares himself eligible for June’s 2009 NBA Draft remains to be seen.



Patty Mills screamed over the final buzzer and waved both arms joyously skyward, goading the raucous Saint Mary's fans into what might have been the first storm-the-court celebration in the history of the NIT's second round.


This was no ordinary early-round game in college hoops' consolation tournament, however.

After winning a full-tilt duel with Davidson's Stephen Curry, Mills wanted to leave his fans with one last memory to match this entertaining matchup.

Mills had 23 points and 10 assists while leading Saint Mary's into the NIT quarterfinals with an 80-68 victory Monday night.

Mills and Curry briefly chatted before the game, each telling the other to simply have fun. After occasionally guarding each other, they met up again briefly afterward while dodging the red-clad fans whooping it up at McKeon Pavilion, wishing each other luck until their paths cross again -- probably in the NBA.

"It was a personal challenge, and the sort of personal experience you don't get every week," Mills said. "I thrive on things like that. It took the whole team to guard [Curry], and we did that, a little bit. He had 26, but we guarded him."

The NIT rarely gets more intriguing matchups than this showdown between Mills and Curry, two high-scoring point guards who felt their teams were unfairly denied NCAA tournament berths. Neither guard disappointed, but Curry acknowledged Mills and the Gaels (28-6) were a bit sharper overall.

"Hostile crowd, big atmosphere, it was definitely a fun game for all involved," Curry said, describing Mills as "relentless. He's just always on the attack."

Omar Samhan added 18 points and nine rebounds for the Gaels, who will play Wednesday night at San Diego State, with the winner getting a trip to Madison Square Garden next week for the NIT semifinals.

Mills, the Australian Olympic star, scored 17 points in the first half of what probably was his final game at McKeon Pavilion, where fans chant "Aussie Aussie Aussie!" after his baskets. He struggled with 1-of-10 3-point shooting, a common theme since his return from a broken hand two weeks ago.

But Curry, last season's NCAA hero during Davidson's run to the regional final, couldn't quite spur a second-half comeback late in the Wildcats' cross-country trip, missing 11 of his final 17 shots in an 11-of-27 performance that included four 3-pointers -- but none in the final 10 minutes.

With the loss still fresh, Curry wasn't ready to announce whether he'll return for his senior season.

"I haven't thought about it," Curry said. "I tried to put it off until our season is over. I'll just have to get together with all the people involved in the decision, but I don't have a timeline or anything like that."

Thanks to the NIT's clever scheduling, Curry and Mills got a memorable head-to-head matchup -- although both wished their seasons would have ended in the bigger tournament.

Diamon Simpson had 12 points and 15 rebounds for Saint Mary's, which took charge with a 14-5 run early in the second half largely made on baskets by Mills' teammates. The Gaels maintained the lead with Mills' scoring -- and the occasional incredible pass, such as his 45-foot lob to Wayne Hunter for a layup while getting fouled with 4:43 to play, driving the crowd wild.

"It was a special game," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "I don't know if I remember a game that's been a better atmosphere. I'm pretty sure I've never been involved in a game in here that's had more hype and more attention. To play in a game like that, to play well, it makes you really proud of your kids."

The Gaels' cacophonous bandbox of a gym high in the Oakland hills was packed to the rafters 30 minutes before tipoff. Fans stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the concrete walkway behind the last row of seats, craning their necks for a partial view of warmups -- during which Curry tripped over his pants and crashed to the floor on a layup attempt, getting up with a sheepish grin.

"Is this the atmosphere that they have for every game?" Davidson coach Bob McKillop asked. "It just blows my mind that they have this kind of crowd. This is very similar to [Duke's] Cameron [Indoor Stadium] in terms of the noise level, the heat, the intensity, the passion. Saint Mary's deserves credit for that."

By Bill Baxter for BA Media

Patty Mills faces a career defining challenge today when his St. Mary’s College Gaels take on Stephen Curry’s Davidson Wildcats in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament in Moraga, California.


Outrageously overlooked for selection to the 2009 NCAA Tournament despite a school record 26 wins from 32 games, with four losses in five games when Patty was out injured, St. Mary’s is fighting for redemption and recognition as one of the best mid-major programs in the United States.

The only catch is, so are the Wildcats.

Led by Curry, the 185cm baby-faced leading scorer of NCAA Division 1 basketball, Davidson recorded a 27-7 win-loss record this season and was a certainty for the big dance before a shock loss to College of Charlestown in the second round of the Southern Conference Tournament.

Curry averages a whopping 28.7 points per game and has led the team in scoring in all but two games this season. He has scored 20 or more points in all but four games this season, has topped 30 points fifteen times, and 40 points four times. He is coming off a 32-point performance in Davidson’s NIT first round win over South Carolina. He also leads the team with 184 assists, to average 5.5 assists per outing.

In other words he’s a gun, locked and loaded for a long pro career much like his father Dell who spent 16 years in the NBA.

Patty, by comparison, scored 20 points nine times this season, giving him 18 games with at least 20 points in his career. He scored 27 against Fresno St., had 21 against CS Fullerton, 24 against Providence, 26 against Kent State, 22 against Oregon, 23 against Pacific, 21 at CSUB, and 31 against Santa Clara for his second career 30-point game. His ninth 20-point game was a 27-point performance against Washington State in the first round of the NIT last Wednesday.

If Patty Mills and the Gaels can get the better of Curry and Davidson today, what will that mean for the future of the Australian Boomers point guard?

Speculation is rife about whether Mills will declare himself eligible for the 2009 NBA Draft, foregoing the final two years of his college career at St. Mary’s.

A big game today in front of a national television audience against the highest scorer in the country? Patty might just be able to write his own ticket, if he wants to.

The people of Moraga, California know this might be the last time they see their beloved Patty on court in the Gaels’ blue and red. A loss ends either team’s season. Tickets for the game sold out in 45 minutes.

It is an enormous challenge for Patty and his Australian team mates Carlin Hughes, Lucas Walker, Ben Allen and Clint Steindl - and one you don’t want to miss.

Game time is 2:40pm in Australia’s Eastern states, but it will not be shown live in Australia. The first available replay is on ESPN at 1:00am AEDT on Wednesday morning, replayed again at 1:30pm on the same day.

But you can follow LIVE STATS of the game if you CLICK HERE.

Photo courtesy of News Ltd

Curry had 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists in what might have been the national scoring leader's final game for the Wildcats (27-8), but Mills overcame his awful 3-point shooting with effective passing and just enough of his usual daredevil drives to the hoop, preventing Davidson from rallying late.