MORAGA, Calif. — Jordan Ford was on a mission.
The Saint Mary’s guard had one mission Friday night: to hand No. 15 Utah State its first loss of the season.
Ford poured in a game-high 27 points, including five 3-pointers, to help Saint Mary’s knock off the previously undefeated Aggies, 81-73 at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, California.
It was Saint Mary's first win over an AP Top 25 opponent in the regular season since beating then-No. 21 Gonzaga back on Jan. 12, 2012. The Gaels hadn't beaten a top 15 opponent since upsetting Oregon on Nov. 20, 2007.
"Congrats to Saint Mary's; I thought they played a great game," Utah State coach Craig Smith said. "It was a really good basketball game, with 23 lead changes and 13 ties. Back and forth, and neither team could extend from one another.
"We go up four late, then they made a big push to put us away. They made some big-time plays; Jordan Ford had 22 second-half points, he’s an experienced player, and he hit some difficult shots in crunch time.”
Malik Fitts added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Gaels (7-1), who held the Aggies to six offensive boards. Mathias Tass chipped in 15 points, six assists and four rebounds with three blocks for Saint Mary’s, who took advantage of a Utah State squad playing without 7-foot posts Neemias Queta and Kuba Karwowski.
Sam Merrill scored 23 points to go along with six rebounds for the Aggies (7-1), who got 24 points and nine rebounds from Justin Bean.
But Merrill was held scoreless between making a layup with 5:09 left in the game and the final minute, and the Gaels used a 11-0 run to help pull away from a game that was tied 12 times up to that point.
"They really neutralized us on the glass," Smith said. "They outrebounded us, and we only got 11 assists on the night. A lot of that has to do with them.
"As disappointing as this is, I think it’s great for their fanbase and it will be great for our fanbase to bring them in to our place next year. I think it’s great for the game of college basketball."
The win, combined with a neutral-site victory over Wisconsin, helps Saint Mary's potential resume overcome a home loss to Winthrop earlier in the season. The Gaels next host Omaha on Sunday.
Utah State visits San Jose State in a Mountain West opener for both teams Wednesday.