SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Midway through the WCC race, Gonzaga is in first place but the course changes a bit for the second half.
The Bulldogs (18-3, 8-1 WCC) went 6-0 at home in the first half. That leaves GU with six of nine conference games on the road to close out the regular season. Second-place Saint Mary’s (16-5, 6-2) has six of its remaining 10 on the road.
Gonzaga begins its road-heavy second half Wednesday night at Santa Clara, followed by Saturday’s visit to San Francisco.
“It’s going to be a very difficult task,” coach Mark Few said, “but we don’t need to look at it as a whole. We just need to piece it together weekend by weekend.”
Santa Clara (10-12, 3-6) has dropped four straight after upsetting Saint Mary’s in Moraga. The Broncos have the only losing overall record in the conference, but they always seem to give Gonzaga trouble at the Leavey Center, including last year when it took Kelly Olynyk’s career-high 33 points in an 81-74 GU victory.
The Bulldogs defeated Santa Clara 74-60 on Dec. 28, their closest game in a four-game home stand to open WCC play. GU led 51-49 before going on a clinching 12-1 run.
“More so than probably any of our teams in the recent past we have to come out and at a minimum match the other team’s energy and intensity, and hopefully beat it, for us to have a chance,” Few said. “Look around, there aren’t a whole lot of first-round draft picks out there.”
The Broncos rely on guards Brandon Clark, Jared Brownridge and Evan Roquemore. All three scored 20 points in a road win over Portland. Clark scored 22 points in Spokane and averages 17.4. The freshman Brownridge (20.9 ppg in conference) has had consecutive 30-point games. Roquemore, SCU’s all-time assists leader and 12th in career points, has come off the bench the last three games. He averages 11.4 points and 3.4 assists.