"I got on [Todd] the whole trip," Bennett says.
Two weeks ago, Golden finally was able to answer his coach back. The fifth-year senior watched that same player -- now a freshman at St. Mary's -- light up Oregon's Tajuan Porter for 37 points as St. Mary's won its biggest non-conference game in years.
"He told me, 'Well, I don't feel so bad now. That 16-year old turned out to be pretty good,'" Bennett says.
Meet Patrick Mills, the Australian sensation who has helped transform St. Mary's 3,500-seat McKeon Pavilion into a kangaroo court of sorts, complete with Australian flags and chants.
"It is very warming to come to the game and hear the Aussie chant with Australian flags all over the place," says Mills, who goes by Patty among friends. "You wouldn't know any difference from back home, and that's great for us. It is great to be in an environment that makes you feel like that."
Mills has stepped into the point guard role this season and flourished for the Gaels, which could challenge Gonzaga's grip on West Coast Conference supremacy. He's averaging 16.3 points and 4.8 assists, and St. Mary's, which has also beaten Seton Hall, is that's 6-0 for the first time since 1988-89.
Mills has been in double figures in all but one game. He sank four three-pointers, had five assists and only one turnover in the convincing 99-87 win over then-No. 12 Oregon. It seemed there was no one that could slow Mills that night, except for perhaps the students who stormed the court following the victory.
"It took a few games for me to get comfortable, and the Oregon game was perfect timing," Mills said. "Coming into the game, there was a lot of excitement because everyone was talking about it here. Going up against a really good point guard in Porter, I knew it was going to be tough. I knew I had to be more aggressive and attack offensively and defensively."
St. Mary's has been bringing in top Australian talent since Bennett became coach seven years ago. There are three other Australian players on this year's roster, and the school's all-time leading scorer is Daniel Kickert, a Melbourne-native who graduated in 2006.
The Australian flavor of this St. Mary's team was passed onto the student section at Midnight Madness, when Carlin Hughes taught the crowd the "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi" chant that is common at Australian sporting events. The home fans do the chant throughout the game and Men at Work's Down Under plays during timeouts.
And as popular as Mills has become at the tiny school located in Moraga, Calif., just east of Oakland, he is a mini-celebrity in Australia's sporting world. The Canberra Times -- his hometown paper -- sent a reporter to California to cover him for two weeks and Sydney's Daily Telegraph labeled his performance against Oregon as 'scintillating,' a game that was broadcast in Australia.
Part of his popularity in his homeland is tied to his race: Mills is one of the few indigenous athletes to excel at a national level in basketball. If he makes the Olympic team as expected, he will be the first to do so since 1980, when his uncle made the 'Boomers' for the Moscow Olympics.
"I don't see it as pressure," Mills says of possibly being the future face of Australian basketball. "It is something I enjoy doing, having young kids look up to me, especially young indigenous kids. I want them to see someone succeed, not only in rugby or Australian rules, but also basketball."
Mills starred in the under-19 FIBA world championships this summer, averaging 14.8 points, 4.6 assists, and 2.6 rebounds to help Australia qualify for the Beijing Games. Eventually he wants to join fellow countryman and former No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut in the NBA.
"I have a high set of goals -- playing in the NBA one day in the future and the Olympic Games in Beijing," he says. "I have high goals for a reason. They motivate me to develop my game."
There had to be an enormous amount of satisfaction last Saturday for Tommy Amaker when his new team, Harvard, upset his old team, Michigan, 62-51.
"Obviously, a very meaningful game for our program. I want to emphasize that and not get into personal things. I was grateful for my time at Michigan," he told the Associated Press.
Amaker was fired after six seasons at Michigan that produced three NITs and no NCAA tournament invitations. His Wolverines did, however, bury Harvard 82-50 in his final season in Ann Arbor.
Amaker landed in the Ivy League, and hosted Michigan last week. With a soldout crowd on hand and chanting "Appalachian State" at the beginning of the game and storming the floor at the end, Harvard stunned its Big Ten visitors to pull even at 4-4 on the season. Harvard, picked seventh in the Ivy League, scored the game's final 11 points after a 51-51 tie.
But the Crimson was not able to sustain the momentum, losing to struggling Boston University 79-72 the next time out.
Following play on Wednesday, there were eight winless teams remaining in Division I. USC Upstate (Atlantic Sun), New Jersey Institute of Technology (Independent), Canisius (Metro Atlantic), Mississippi Valley State (Southwestern Athletic), Alcorn State (SWAC), Grambling (SWAC), Furman (Southern) and Ball State (MAC) are all looking for their first victory.