LAS VEGAS – Riding an eight-game winning streak, Saint Mary's ran into its biggest challenge yet at the Las Vegas Classic.
No. 6 Baylor was simply too much for the Gaels to handle.
Saint Mary's played in a familiar place, the Orleans Arena, and hung around in the first half. But the Bears' size, athleticism and speed eventually overwhelmed the Gaels, and Baylor went on to a 72-59 victory Thursday night.
Saint Mary's was outscored 36-25 in the second half and shot only 35 percent after hitting at a 55 percent clip in the first 20 minutes.
"We should be a good shooting team," Gaels coach Randy Bennett said. "I thought we did a good job getting good shots. I thought we rushed some 3s."
Rob Jones led Saint Mary's (10-2) with 14 points and seven rebounds. Brad Waldow added 12 points.
"Offensively, I wasn't discouraged. I thought we got good shots. We took care of the ball," Bennett said.
Quincy Miller scored 15 points, one of four Baylor players in double digits, and grabbed five rebounds. Perry Jones III added 14 points, nine rebounds and four blocks for the Bears (11-0), who remained one of six undefeated teams in Division I.
"They're no pressure," Miller said. "It's not about rankings."
Quincy Acy added 12 points and 10 rebounds for Baylor, while Brady Heslip scored 11.
"A lot of people don't realize how good a program Saint Mary's is," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, who has the Bears off to their best start since winning their first 12 games in 2000-01. "In the first half, we came out with a lot of energy and then as time went on, they were able to make interior passes that led to some 3s. In the second half, we did a better job taking care of the ball."
Baylor never trailed in the second half and pulled away after leading 36-34 at the break.
Baylor plays West Virginia in the final round Friday, while Saint Mary's takes on Missouri State. Baylor will see West Virginia regularly when the Mountaineers move to the Big 12.
"They're a big, strong, talented team," Miller said. "Great rebounding team. We're very excited to play them."
Baylor took control in the second half and eventually built a 15-point lead with 8:02 left. The Bears shot 50 percent from the field for the game and outrebounded the Gaels 37-24.
"I thought we rebounded the ball well, and Saint Mary's is third in the country in rebounding," Drew said. "So that was a challenge for us."
After the Bears scored the first six points of the game, there were eight lead changes in the first half as neither team built a lead larger than that six.
This was the second meeting between Baylor and Saint Mary's. In 2010, they met in the NCAA tournament's South Regional semifinal, where the Bears won 72-49 in Houston.
Both teams are making their first Classic appearance. This was Baylor's first trip to Las Vegas since 1982.
Meanwhile, Saint Mary's has made the Orleans Arena a home away from home.
The Gaels have made the trip here for the past three West Coast Conference tournaments. They won it in 2010, defeating Gonzaga in the final. They also defeated Mississippi State in a regular-season game last December.