Several items below on Gonzaga’s matchup with Santa Clara Thursday, but first this note on Josh Heytvelt and two GU women’s basketball players, Jami (Bjorklund) Schaefer and Janelle Bekkering earning All-WCC academic honors. More here.
Forbes.com puts Mark Few on its list of top 10 college coaches. More here.
And, Santa Clara will be without Decensae White, a transfer from Texas Tech. San Diego’s Trumaine Johnson is no longer a Torrero. USD entertains Gonzaga on Saturday.
Read on for more on Gonzaga-Santa Clara.
First, from Thursday’s Four Corners page in the S-R, here’s a quick look at GU-SCU:
Record: 21-5, 12-0 WCC
Coming up: Tonight at Santa Clara, 8 p.m.; Saturday at San Diego, 4:30
Outlook: Santa Clara ranks second to Gonzaga in field-goal percentage (46.8) and field-goal percentage defense (38.2) in WCC games. GU checks in at 50.3 percent and 35.5, respectively. The Broncos were making a run at second place in the conference, but they’ve dropped two of their last three games. Santa Clara is last in turnover margin (minus 5.08), well behind No. 7 Pepperdine (minus 2.5). Freshman guard James Rahon has returned to practice after missing 2½ games with a shoulder injury. He didn’t play in a loss to San Francisco and was out for the second half of a loss to Pepperdine. He’s emerged as a third scoring threat (11.5) and he scored a team-high 14 in Santa Clara’s 95-43 loss to Gonzaga on Jan. 15.
A couple of notebook items on the Four Corners page:
And the winner is
It’s the last chance for awards candidates to impress the voters.
Coaches’ ballots for West Coast Conference awards are due by Saturday night – an hour after the final game, roughly 11 p.m. Winners will be announced Monday.
Gonzaga’s Matt Bouldin and Santa Clara’s John Bryant are considered the leading candidates for player of the year. Their teams meet tonight at the Leavey Center.
In WCC games, Bouldin is ninth in scoring (14.8), seventh in field-goal percentage (53.3), third in assists (3.9), third in 3-point percentage (49) and first by a wide margin in assists-to-turnover ratio (2.6). Bryant is first in rebounding (15.0), field-goal percentage (62.9) and blocked shots (2.4), and second in scoring (17.8).
Bryant also leads the nation in offensive efficiency, according to Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating. He said there’s a Web site that tracks possessions, field-goal and free-throw percentages and other variables.
“At the very least, if he’s not the player of the year, he’s far and away the defensive player of the year,” Keating said.
Santa Clara freshman Kevin Foster is a candidate for newcomer of the year. He’s averaging 16.8 points and 3.2 assists. Foster broke Kurt Rambis’s 32-year-old school record for single-season scoring by a freshman.
Portland’s T.J. Campbell is also a strong candidate.
Gonzaga senior forward Ira Brown’s sore left ankle has kept him from practicing this week, but he still might see time in tonight’s game against Santa Clara. Brown was hurt when a Pepperdine player landed on his left heel in the first half Saturday. He returned to play 10 minutes in the second half.
Brown is averaging 10.5 minutes, 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.
Finally, my expanded GU-SCU preview:
By Jim Meehan
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Gonzaga set a season high for points and equaled its largest margin of victory the last time it faced Santa Clara.
The Bulldogs know it won’t be so easy when the teams collide tonight at the Leavey Center.
No. 17 Gonzaga (21-5, 12-0) is trying to move a step closer to its third unbeaten conference season in six years. The Bulldogs, who close the WCC season at San Diego on Saturday, need to keep winning because “we’re still in the process of compiling an NCAA resume,” head coach Mark Few said.
Santa Clara (14-15, 6-6 WCC) is good at home (10-2) and has been pretty good (7-3) since absorbing its worst conference loss in school history (95-43 in Spokane on Jan. 15). After an 0-4 conference start, the Broncos are in fourth place. If they stay there, they’ll have a first-round bye in the WCC Tournament.
“I think that game wasn’t real for our guys,” Broncos head coach Kerry Keating said. “They never gave themselves a chance right out of the gate. That’s a credit to Gonzaga. They were making a statement coming into the beginning of conference that they were the team to beat and they established that and beat the crap out of us.
“I would hope, by human nature, our guys would be motivated enough … and by what happened (after) having that game won last year.”
Gonzaga was staring at defeat last season at the Leavey Center until Steven Gray was inexplicably fouled by Brody Angley 65 feet from GU’s basket with 0.3 seconds left. Gray hit both free throws to force overtime and Gonzaga eventually won 87-82 in double OT. The Bulldogs throttled Santa Clara 88-54 in the rematch in Spokane.
The Bulldogs haven’t lost at Santa Clara since 2001, but four of the last five meetings have been decided by eight points or less.
Gonzaga held a 32-5 edge in points off turnovers in the January meeting. Santa Clara has since moved freshman guard Kevin Foster to point guard.
“That gave us a little more stability and finalized our rotation,” Keating said.
Foster is averaging 14.4 points, 16.8 in WCC games. Center John Bryant averages 18 points and leads the nation in rebounding. He was held to 12 points and 11 boards in Spokane.
“We sped them up in Spokane,” Few said. “It’s going to be more difficult on the road, but that’s what we need to try to do.”