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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Key matchup: Santa Clara’s Keshawn Justice in the midst of impressive scoring streak

Feb. 1, 2023 Updated Wed., Feb. 1, 2023 at 5:40 p.m.

Two players on Santa Clara’s roster have scored in double figures in each of the Broncos’ last five games.

Neither is named Brandin Podziemski.

Podziemski, the versatile sophomore and Illinois transfer, may be on his way to the West Coast Conference scoring title, but he hasn’t shouldered the load by himself for Herb Sendek’s team this season.

As WCC teams continue to devise defensive strategies for the high-scoring guard – Saint Mary’s did it the best, holding Podziemski to seven points on 3-of-9 shooting from the field – the Broncos will continue to call on the production of senior forward Keshawn Justice and sophomore point guard Carlos Stewart.

Justice is especially familiar with the type of support role he’s playing this season. The senior from Madison, Wisconsin, was a third option for Sendek’s team in 2021-22, which was headlined by guard/wing Jalen Williams, the 12th overall pick of the 2022 NBA draft and someone who averaged 18 ppg for the Broncos.

Podziemski is scoring it slightly better than Williams, averaging 19 ppg, but Justice is again the team’s third option as a fifth-year senior, averaging 13.6 ppg after scoring 13.0 ppg last season.

A 22-point outing against Gonzaga on Jan. 7 triggered an impressive scoring run for Justice, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward, who followed with 26 points against Pacific and 23 points against BYU. He scored 12 points against Saint Mary’s and had 13 against Pacific before fouling out.

Justice poses issues to WCC opponents with his big frame, experience and ability to stretch the floor. He made 18 3-pointers during Santa Clara’s recent five-game stretch while shooting 40% from beyond the arc. Justice needs just 13 3-pointers to match his total (77) from last season.

The Broncos’ trio of Podziemski, Justice and Stewart combined to score 50 points in a five-point loss to Gonzaga last month. The Bulldogs will likely have to take one, or multiple, of those players out of the picture to guarantee another win – or a more comfortable one – over Santa Clara.

Julian Strawther handled Justice when the teams met in Santa Clara and it’s likely to stay that way when they reunite in Spokane. The Zags could elect to switch things up and stick their most versatile defender, Anton Watson, on Santa Clara’s top frontcourt scorer, but it would leave GU relatively thin and without the size they’ll need to confront 6-10 Parker Braun and 6-10 Jaden Bediako.

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