GAME NOTES: The Santa Clara Broncos will wrap up their three-game homestand at the Leavey Center on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the Saint Mary's Gaels to town for a West Coast Conference bout.
Saint Mary's has been on a slide of late with back-to-back losses, falling at home to BYU last Saturday (60-57) before dropping a road test at San Francisco on Thursday (73-62). The Gaels are still a solid 19-9 overall this season, but at 9-6 in the WCC, they have fallen back to fourth place in the league standings.
Santa Clara's season has been largely a disappointment with a 12-16 overall mark and a 5-10 league ledger, but it has turned things around a bit of late with wins in two of its last three. The Broncos took care of business against Pacific on Thursday, 70-50, to improve to 7-8 at home.
Saint Mary's edged out Santa Clara in the first meeting this season, 57-55 on Jan. 9, although the Broncos still lead the storied all-time series by a 131-84 count.
The Gaels came out of the gate flat earlier in the week, falling behind USF by 10 at the half and never cutting their deficit to less than nine for the rest of the contest. They shot just 39.7 percent from the field on the evening, including a woeful 5-of-26 from 3-point range, while allowing USF to make 50 percent of its tries from the floor. Brad Waldow was one of the few standouts in the setback with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Garrett Jackson came off the bench to net 13.
On the season, Saint Mary's is usually a much more effective offensive club, as it shoots 45.7 percent from the field for 73.2 ppg. Its defense has been excellent as well, ranking 61st nationally in allowing just 65.8 ppg. Waldow paces the squad from the frontcourt with 16.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg and 1.5 bpg, all while shooting 57.4 percent from the floor. Stephen Holt pours in 14.0 ppg on 42-of-103 from beyond the arc (.408) and also finds time to hand out 4.4 apg. Rounding out the balanced squad are Beau Levesque (10.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg), James Walker III (10.0 ppg), Kerry Carter (9.8 ppg).
The Broncos set the tone early in their most recent game, opening up a double- digit halftime lead over Pacific before cruising to the easy 20-point victory. They shot a lackluster 35.7 percent from the field on the night, but they held Pacific to an even worse 32 percent, shot 22-of-28 from the free-throw line and won both the rebounding (38-33) and turnover (12-8) battles. Brandon Clark led the way with 17 points and four assists, while Jared Brownridge scored 16 points on 4-of-10 from 3-point range.
Although Santa Clara shoots just 42.2 percent from the field this season, while allowing its opponents to make greater than 45 percent of its tries from the floor, it still boasts a +0.6 scoring margin thanks to its strong showing from the free-throw line (.730), its 7.6 3-pointers per game and a stellar +1.9 turnover margin. Clark (17.0 ppg) and Brownridge (16.7 ppg) are neck-and- neck for the team-lead in scoring, and the duo has combined to drain 128 3- pointers and both shoot greater than 85 percent from the charity stripe. Evan Roquemore has also been solid with 10.4 ppg.
With Saint Mary's sliding of late, it could be in for a tough matchup against a Santa Clara squad on the upswing, but in the end the Gaels' superior talent will win out down the stretch.
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