March 5, 2003
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara University men's basketball team will be looking to prevent history from repeating itself Friday night when it takes on Bay Area rival Saint Mary's College in the second game of the 17th annual West Coast Conference Tournament scheduled for Friday through Monday in San Diego.
Last season, the Broncos dropped a 72-67 overtime decision to Saint Mary's in the first round of the tournament after sweeping the regular season series between the two schools. Santa Clara enters this year's tournament in an identical situation, having earned a 66-63 victory at the Leavey Center and a dramatic last-second 57-56 win in Moraga.
The league tournament will tipoff Friday at 6 p.m. with Portland playing Loyola Marymount in the first game of the session. The Broncos-Gaels matchup is scheduled to begin 30 minutes following the conclusion of the first game, at approximately 8:30 p.m. Tickets remain available by calling the University of San Diego ticket office at 619/260-7550.
Santa Clara will provide live coverage of every Bronco game during the tournament on the Bronco Radio Network, which consists of 1640 AM KDIA, 103.3 FM KSCU and on the Internet via its official athletic website at www.SantaClaraBroncos.com. In addition, there will be live GameTracker coverage on SantaClaraBroncos.com as well.
The winner of the Santa Clara vs. Saint Mary's game will face fourth-seeded Pepperdine Saturday in the second game of the evening session. The first game of the second round will feature the winner of the Loyola Marymount-Portland game against third-seeded San Francisco. Should the Broncos advance past Pepperdine, they will play top-seeded Gonzaga in the semifinals Sunday night at 9 p.m. That game, as well as Monday night's 9 p.m. championship game, will be televised live by ESPN.
Santa Clara enters Friday's game with a 13-14 overall record and 4-10 league mark. The Broncos concluded the regular-season tied with Loyola Marymount and Portland for sixth-place in the league standings. Santa Clara is the number eight seed in the WCC Tournament by virtue of season series losses to both Portland and LMU during the regular season.
Previous to this season, the Broncos have never been seeded lower than sixth in the WCC Tournament (1994), have been seeded third or higher in nine of the previous events and have advanced to the championship game on six occasions, winning twice. The last time Santa Clara won the WCC Tournament was in 1993 when the tournament was held in San Francisco. The Broncos won the inaugural event in 1987, also held at San Francisco.
As he has for most of the regular season, freshman Brandon Rohe leads the Broncos in scoring with a 10.7 per game average. However, sophomore guard Bakari Altheimer has moved within one-tenth of a point with a 10.6 per game average following a 21-point effort against Gonzaga last week at the Leavey Center. Altheimer has scored in double figures in five of the last six games and owns a team-high 14.5 points scoring average against the Gaels in the two games this season.
Rohe, a native of San Juan Capistrano, Calif., surpassed former Bronco star Steve Nash's freshman record for most three-point field goals with his two against Portland last weekend. His 50 makes is a freshman record as is his 140 attempts on the season. Rohe is also in the top-10 in the Bronco freshman record books for total points (289), free throws made (71), free throw attempts (90), free throw percentage (.789), assists (66) and steals (27).
Senior Jim Howell was named to the honorable mention all-WCC team after leading the team and ranking fifth in the WCC in rebounding with a 6.3 per game average. The Newport, Ore. native is shooting the third-best field goal percentage in the league, but is just under the minimum for made shots per game to qualify for the rankings. He is also second in the league behind USD's Jason Keep in offensive rebounds with an average of 2.85 per game.
Saint Mary's enters Friday's game with a 13-14 overall record and 6-8 league mark. The Gaels, under the direction of second-year head coach Randy Bennett, are led by freshman Daniel Kickert, who scores at a 12.6 per game clip. Senior Chase Poole is the team's rebounding leader with an average of 6.3 per game.
Santa Clara won both matchups against the Gaels this season to sweep the regular-season series between the two teams for the fourth-straight year. Both games weren't without drama, however, as the Broncos took a 66-63 win at the Leavey Center then made a last-second basket for a dramatic 57-56 win in Moraga. In the win at McKeon Pavilion, Brad Anderson grabbed two steals in the final 2.5 seconds and handed out his only assist in the game to his brother, Cord, for the game winner with just 1.5 seconds left.