Santa Clara doesn’t figure to be easy mark at home
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.
“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 solid (7-3) since absorbing the worst conference loss in school history (95-43 in Spokane on Jan. 15). After a 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 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.”