Feb. 9, 2004
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The bottleneck that is taking place near the top of the West Coast Conference standings could clear up a bit this weekend when the Santa Clara University men's basketball team travels to Southern California for key league games against Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.
The Broncos play at Loyola Marymount Thursday night at 7 p.m. then face Pepperdine Saturday night in a 7:30 p.m. tipoff. The game against the Waves will be televised in Southern California by Fox Sports West 2. In the Bay Area, Bronco fans can catch the game on the radio via KSFB-AM (1220) or the Internet at www.SantaClaraBroncos.com.
Followers of Santa Clara basketball will notice a change for this year's road trip to Southern California. Since 1986, the Broncos have played Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount on consecutive nights without a day of rest in between. This year's Thursday-Saturday league schedule requires a night in between games.
Santa Clara, which is currently tied with the Waves for third-place in the standings with a 5-4 record in league games, is just one-half game behind Saint Mary's in the race for the second seed in the WCC Championships. The Waves and Broncos also sit just one game ahead of San Francisco and Portland, putting five teams within a game-and-a-half of the coveted second seed with just three weeks of the regular season remaining.
The top two seeds in the regular-season standings earn two byes in the WCC Championships, allowing those two teams to advance directly to the event's semifinals. The result is that the top two teams must only play one game to advance to Monday night's championship game with the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament on the line.
The third and fourth-place teams in the league standings earn one bye, avoiding the tournament's first day of competition. The bottom four seeds, six through eight, must win four games in four days to have a chance to advance to the NCAA tournament.
The Broncos enter Thursday's 7 p.m. contest at Loyola Marymount with a 13-11 overall record after splitting a pair of games against travel partner San Diego last week. The Broncos earned a 74-69 win over the Toreros on Thursday but dropped a 74-71 decision Saturday night at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. Santa Clara set school records in the two games with 35 and 45 three-point field goal attempts, respectively.
Junior guard Kyle Bailey averaged 24.5 points in the two games last week and scored a season-high 26 points in the game at USD. The Fairbanks, Alaska native scored the 1,000th point of his Bronco career on Saturday night and ended the evening with 1,008 career points. He also recorded two steals in the game, moving him into a tie with Lloyd Pierce and Mitch Burley for ninth on the SCU career list in that category with 104.
Doron Perkins continues to lead the Broncos in scoring with an average of 12.5 points per game. The Anchorage, Alaska native also continues to lead the WCC in steals and is one of three Broncos to have played in all 24 games this season.
Bailey is scoring at a 12.1 per game average on the season but leads the team in league games with 13.7 points per game. Senior Jim Howell, who is the only SCU player to have started all 24 games this season, is the team's rebounding and blocked shots leader, averaging 5.7 and 1.1 per game, respectively.
Loyola Marymount enters Thursday's game with an 11-11 overall record and 2-7 mark in league games. The Lions have lost four of their last five games but have an impressive 82-77 victory over second-place Saint Mary's during that stretch.
Sherman Gay, who scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in LMU's 70-54 loss at Santa Clara earlier this season, is the team's scoring leader with an average of 15.8 points per game. Keith Kincade (12.0) and Charles Brown (11.5) are also scoring in double-figures for the Lions, who started the season with five-straight victories.
Following this week's trip to Southern California, Santa Clara returns home for a single game next week against Saint Mary's College. The contest will mark final regular-season home game for seniors Howell, J.R. Patrick and Alex Kargbo.