GAME NOTES: The third West Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup will feature the ninth-seeded Santa Clara Broncos going up against the defending WCC champion and top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs at Orleans Arena.
The winner of this contest will get a spot in the semifinal round of the tournament, and will play the winner of Pepperdine and Saint Mary's.
Santa Clara had an up-and-down season to say the least, and didn't win consecutive conference games all season long until the Broncos took down Pepperdine in the regular-season finale last Saturday, 86-78, and then beat Pacific earlier this week in the WCC Tournament first round, 81-64.
Gonzaga was the typical dominant team we've seen in years past, only losing back-to-back games once all season long and entering the tournament with a 15-3 mark - two games better than the second and third seeds in the conference. The 'Zags are coming off a season-finale win over Saint Mary's, 75-47, last Saturday.
Gonzaga leads the all-time series with Santa Clara, 50-32. The Bulldogs swept the season series against the Broncos in 2013-14.
The Broncos took control right away against Pacific in the first-round matchup on Thursday night, leading the Tigers by five points at the end of the first half and piling 12 more points onto their lead in the second frame. Jared Brownridge led Santa Clara in the contest with 20 points, connecting on 7- of-14 shooting from the floor. Evan Roquemore scored 17 points off the bench for the Broncos, while Brandon Clark chipped in 15 points and Jerry Brown added 12 with eight rebounds. Santa Clara shot 44.8 percent from the field in the win.
Clark and Brownridge have been two bright spots for the Broncos on the season, which was otherwise cluttered by plenty of highs and lows. Clark leads the team with a 17 ppg average, adding a team-best 1.4 spg, 3.6 apg and a team- leading 86.6 percent shooting touch from the free-throw line. Brownridge was right there in scoring as well, with a 16.9 ppg mark. Roquemore rounds out the Broncos' double-digit scorers with 10.4 ppg. Brown leads the team with a 5.4 rpg average, and Yannick Atanga has blocked a team-best 29 shot attempts on the year.
Gonzaga and Saint Mary's certainly have a history as two of the more storied teams in the West Coast Conference. But last Saturday's regular-season finale didn't fit into the typical back-and-forth battles people are used to seeing. Gonzaga led by 20 points at the half, and grew its lead to 32 points when the final buzzer sounded. Sam Dower scored 15 points to pace the Bulldogs, and added 10 rebounds for the double-double. Przemek Karnowski and David Stockton each contributed 10 points to the win.
The 'Zags sport the conference's second-best scoring offense (77.2 ppg), second-best scoring defense (65.1 ppg), the best field-goal percentage defense (39.3 percent for opponents from the field), and have the best field-goal percentage in the league (49.7 percent). It's not hard to see why this team is the clear-cut favorite. Sam Dower (14.6 ppg), Kevin Pangos (14.6 ppg), Gary Bell Jr. (10.9 ppg) and Przemek Karnowski (10.3 ppg) all fuel a strong Bulldogs offense. Dower and Karnowski share a team-leading 7 rpg average, and Stockton's 128 assists top the squad.
At this point, until it's the semifinal round for Gonzaga, these Broncos are just mere speed bumps along the way. There's always a small chance at an upset, now that the "madness" is starting to stir up, but Gonzaga overpowers Santa Clara in just about every category. It's league title or bust for the Bulldogs.
Game Date and Time