SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara men's basketball overcame a slow start against the Portland Pilots to post its most convincing West Coast Conference win in nearly four years.
Kai Healy came off the bench to score a career-high 19 points and KJ Feagin added 17 as the Broncos shared the ball on offense and used a smothering defense to roll past the Pilots, 70-42, on Thursday.
Jazz Johnson scored 19 points to lead Portland (9-6, 2-1), which shot only 30 percent from the floor and committed 17 turnovers, leading to 24 points for Santa Clara (8-8, 2-1). Johnson was the only Pilots player in double figures.
The matchup of two of the top scorers in the league never quite materialized.
Portland's Alec Wintering, who came in averaging a conference-high 21.9 points per game, was held to a season-low eight, and Santa Clara's Jared Brownridge scored only eight, but that was enough for him to reach 2,000 in his career. He became only the second Bronco and 11th player in WCC history to hit that milestone.
"It feels great to get the win," Brownridge said. "That's the only thing that mattered. Individually, it feels great to reach a milestone. I remember when I got to 1,000 points and it's weird to see things come around to 2,000. I've put in a lot of work at Santa Clara to get there."
Brownridge was 3-for-8 from the floor and had three assists. He dealt with foul trouble in the second half, but the game was well in hand by that point.
After trailing for the first 10 minutes of the game, the Broncos built a 12-point lead by halftime and then extended it scoring 14 of 15 points early in the second half.
The run started with Brownridge's record-setting basket. Emmanuel Ndumanya stole the ball and fed Brownridge for a breakaway layup, his seventh and eighth points of the game, with 15:12 left. The lead grew to 55-30 on Healy's fifth 3-pointer of the game, a career high.
The Pilots went more than 12 minutes in the second half without a field goal and trailed by as many as 30.
"The guys showed tremendous resolve today," Santa Clara head coach Herb Sendek said. "I think the turnaround came because we dug in and played better defense. Our energy level increased, we took some charges, got the 50-50 balls, and got on the floor. The tenacity on defense propelled us back into the game and allowed us to win the game going away.
The Broncos played nearly the entire game without starting guard Matt Hauser who was injured just three minutes in and did not return.
Nate Kratch had nine points, seven rebounds and four of Santa Clara's 20 assists (on 27 field goals). The Broncos only turned the ball over six times and had seven steals.
Healy went 7 of 8 from the floor, including 5 of 6 from behind the 3-point line. Feagin also hit five 3-pointers and chipped in a season-high seven assists.
"Kai shot the ball really well tonight," Sendek said. "When you shoot well, things fall into place. There's nothing like putting the ball in the hole. I don't know where we would have been without him.
The margin of victory was the largest for the Broncos in WCC play since an 85-54 triumph against San Francisco on Jan. 17, 2013.
Portland posted its lowest point total since a 77-42 loss at Saint Mary's on Feb. 2, 2013.
Wintering was averaging 24.5 points in his previous two WCC games and had scored at least 13 points in each contest this season.
Santa Clara, which has won five of seven overall and six of its last seven at home, flipped the switch midway through the first half.
The Pilots led 18-9 after holding the Broncos to just four field goals in the first 10 minutes, but Kratch and Feagin fueled a game-defining run. Kratch contributed to 10 straight points. He connected on three field goals and fed Healy for one of his three first half 3-pointers.
Feagin had three 3-pointers in the first half, all in the final four minutes.
A 19-2 run by the Broncos gave them a 28-20 lead with 2:12 left in the first half.
"We've improved in every way," Sendek said. "There's no question about it. Getting KJ back was significant. We knew when he hurt his foot that it was going to be a great challenge for our basketball team. The guys found a way to compete and win some games."
Santa Clara is on the road for the next three games, starting Saturday at Loyola Marymount. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.
Notes: Tonight's game was the 93rd meeting between the teams. The series began in 1946 and Santa Clara now leads, 60-33. The Broncos won both contests last season to snap a three-game series winning streak for the Pilots. The Pilots had won two of the last three meetings in Santa Clara … in the first half, Healy tied his season high in points with 11 and tied his career high in 3-pointers with three. Healy finished the game with career highs in points (19) and 3-point field goals (five) ... Santa Clara tied a season high for the fourth time, knocking down eight three-pointers in a half. The Broncos also matched a season best with 14 3-pointers in the game (also vs. Northern Colorado, Nov. 19) ... at 2,001 career points, Brownridge needs nine more to move up to 10th place on the WCC all-time scoring list. Bo Kimble of LMU (1987-90) scored 2,010 ... after tying his career high against San Francisco (Dec. 31) with four 3-pointers, Feagin set a new career best by knocking down five from beyond the arc ... Santa Clara went 2-2 from the free throw line, the fewest attempts it has taken in a game this season.
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