Saint Mary's guard Aidan Mahaney (20) shoots in front of...

Saint Mary's guard Aidan Mahaney (20) shoots in front of San Francisco guard Malik Thomas (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Moraga, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. Credit: AP/Jeff Chiu

MORAGA, Calif. — Mitchell Saxen scored 20 points, Alex Ducas added 18 and No. 18 Saint Mary's extended the longest active winning streak in the nation to 14 straight games with a 70-66 victory over San Francisco on Tuesday night.

The Gaels (22-6, 13-0 West Coast Conference) remained the only team in the country unbeaten in conference play but it didn't come easy against their cross-bay rivals.

They overcame a four-point deficit late and snapped a six-game winning streak for the Dons (21-7, 10-3).

“It really just gets down to toughness and physicality,” Saxen said. “We’ve been in that spot before, down four late in the second half early in the season and haven't gotten things done. But we showed a lot of maturity as a team and stayed on our front foot, stayed aggressive and had a ton of belief in each other and pulled it out.”

Aidan Mahaney added 12 points, including a key 3-pointer late that needed a replay review to count after officials originally ruled it was tipped in after bouncing high off the rim.

The Gaels won the game with their physicality, outrebounding the Dons 36-23 and getting to the foul line 32 times.

“When you go plus 13 (rebounding) in a tight game like that, that does lead to fouls,” Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "That does lead to get to the free throw line and we did. I would say that’s the best thing we did tonight.

Saint Mary's center Mitchell Saxen, middle, is fouled while driving...

Saint Mary's center Mitchell Saxen, middle, is fouled while driving to the basket between San Francisco forward Ndewedo Newbury, left, forward Junjie Wang (35) and guard Mike Sharavjamts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Moraga, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. Credit: AP/Jeff Chiu

Marcus Williams scored 26 points to lead San Francisco.

The Dons went on a 7-0 run midway through the second half to take their first lead since the opening minutes on a 3-pointer by Ndewedo Newbury that made it 46-45.

The game stayed tight from there until Saint Mary's went on an 8-0 run of its own capped by the big 3-pointer by Mahaney that made it 62-58 with 3:36 to play.

The Gaels never relinquished the lead again and held on for their 20th straight home win in this series.

Saint Mary's guard Aidan Mahaney, right, drives to the basket...

Saint Mary's guard Aidan Mahaney, right, drives to the basket against San Francisco guard Mike Sharavjamts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Moraga, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. Credit: AP/Jeff Chiu

“You can throw the game plan out the window if you’re not going to be tough and you’re not going to rebound,” Dons coach Chris Gerlufsen said. “I thought we were tough enough for the majority of the game. We just did not take care of the glass the way that we need to, especially on the road.”

Saint Mary's once again was short-handed with forward Joshua Jefferson sidelined for a second straight game by a knee injury that Bennett said will keep him out for the rest of the season.

The Gaels didn't look sharp early and missed five shots on one trip down the court in the opening minutes. But they got extra chances with strong offensive rebounding and managed to get to the line enough to take a 30-25 halftime lead.

BIG PICTURE

San Francisco: The Dons once again came up on the short end against Saint Mary's losing for the 10th straight time in the series. San Francisco fell a half-game behind second-place Gonzaga.

Saint Mary’s: The win assures the Gaels of a top-two finish in the conference and a spot in the semifinals of the WCC tournament next month in Las Vegas. The Gaels have a 2 1/2-game lead over Gonzaga and can clinch the top seed in the conference tournament with a win over San Diego on Saturday.

UP NEXT

San Francisco: Hosts Pepperdine on Saturday night.

Saint Mary’s: Hosts San Diego on Saturday night.

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