PORTLAND — For the second straight season, Saint Mary's College was unable to get a win on its West Coast Conference trip to the Pacific Northwest.
Two days after a bruising 19-point loss at 16th-ranked Gonzaga, the Gaels couldn't sustain momentum late in an 80-75 overtime loss to Portland at the Chiles Center.
And after coming north to seek a share of first place, Saint Mary's (21-5, 8-3 WCC) will return home in a virtual dead heat with Portland (16-8, 7-3) for second.
"Two good teams, tough trip," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "We've got to get back to practice and get better defensively."
The Gaels, who were down by as many as 13 points in the second half, went on a 10-2 run to cut the deficit to 57-52 with 11:32 left. They took their first and only lead of the second half, 72-70, on Omar Samhan's turnaround jumper with 40 seconds left.
But Portland point guard T.J. Campbell drove to the basket to tie it with 23 seconds left. The Gaels held the ball for a final shot, and Mickey McConnell drove for a potential game-winner but was called for charging with 4.8 seconds left.
In overtime, McConnell turned and banked in a 3-pointer for the Gaels' only points in the extra period.
Pilots forward Luke Sikma made a series of key defensive plays in overtime. He received a pass from Campbell for a layup that made it 77-75, Portland, with 47 seconds left. Sikma, who drew the charge at the end of regulation, also dived on a loose ball and managed to get a timeout that killed a Saint Mary's possession with 59 seconds left.
Bennett blamed the loss on his team's lack of execution on defense. "If we're not going to defend better than that we're not going to win these games," he said.
McConnell was largely responsible for bringing Saint Mary's back after Portland used a 15-2 run to close the first half with a 44-35 lead. He scored 23 of his game-high 25 points after halftime.
Samhan, the WCC leader in points and rebounds, faced a physical defensive front and finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds. He was 6-for-16 from the field.
When the Gaels center fouled out with 1:31 left in overtime, it gave Portland and its crowd of 2,774 an emotional lift.
"He's such a difficult player to guard. We wanted to make him pass it," Sikma said of Samhan. "He was obviously a big part of our (defensive) game plan."
Portland coach Eric Reveno pointed to turnover-to-assist ratio as primary factor in his team's win. Saint Mary's finished with 15 turnovers and 12 assists. Portland turned the ball over five times to go with 16 assists.
at San Diego, 8 p.m.