SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco used a hot-shooting first half and balanced offensive attack to outlast Santa Clara men's basketball, 61-58, Thursday in a key West Coast Conference game.
The Broncos trailed by as many as 25 in the first half and 19 in the second, but made a furious rally in the last six minutes and had a chance to tie the game twice in the final 40 seconds.
KJ Feagin matched his career best with a game-high 26 points and Jared Brownridge added 15, including 14 in the second half, for the Broncos (13-13, 7-6) who had won three of their four previous road games.
Matt McCarthy (10 points) was the lone player in double figures for the Dons, (18-8, 8-5) but they had five score eight or more and held a 38-29 rebounding edge. All 10 players who saw action entered the scoring column.
Feagin scored 10 straight to help the Broncos erase a 12-point deficit with less than four minutes remaining. With 1:15 on the clock, he was fouled while nailing a 3-pointer and after connecting on the free throw, the deficit was down to 59-58. But Chase Foster answered for the Dons on the ensuing possession, hitting a runner in the lane.
On the next trip down the floor, Brownridge was forced into a turnover in the lane, but San Francisco's Jordan Ratinho, who scored nine, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 18 seconds left. Matt Hauser, who had 10 points, was fouled on the next Santa Clara possession, but was unable to convert either free throw attempt.
The Broncos had one last chance to tie the game when Foster missed another front end of a 1-and-1, but Brownridge's desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer was off target.
"In the second half I thought our guys gave a gallant effort, a great effort, really laid it on the line," Santa Clara head coach Herb Sendek said. "They gave us a chance to have a great comeback win but just fell a little bit short."
San Francisco, off to its best start in 17 years, moved into a tie for third place in the WCC standings with BYU after the Cougars lost on the road to Pepperdine Thursday. The Broncos, who had only eight scholarship players available due to injuries, are one game back and close out a four-game stretch on the road Saturday at Pacific.
The Dons shot a blistering 50 percent in the first half, including 8-for-17 from behind the 3-point line, but cooled off in the final 20 minutes, missing all eight 3-pointers.
"We just did a much better job defending them," Sendek said of the second half improvement. "In the first half they were just slicing and dicing us, basically scoring in a wide variety of ways and we struggled to score."
Frankie Ferrari had nine points, while Charles Minlend and Mladen Djordjevic had eight apiece for the Dons whose bench tallied 24.
San Francisco committed 10 of its 13 turnovers in the second half, but still managed to win for the seventh time in the last eight games, including the last four.
The Broncos were trying to sweep the season series from the Dons for just the second time (2012-13) in the last nine years. Santa Clara defeated San Francisco, 72-58, on Dec. 31 at home with strong defense (the Dons shot 39 percent from floor) and long-range shooting (Santa Clara was 13 of 26 on 3-pointers).
But the Broncos were only 8-for-22 from behind the 3-point line in the rematch.
Santa Clara started 1 of 12 from the floor and didn't hit their second field goal until there was 8:46 left in the half, but by that time the Broncos trailed 24-7.
Nine San Francisco players connected on a field goal in the opening half.
A 3-pointer from Djordjvec increased the lead to 44-19 with less than two minutes remaining before halftime.
The Broncos scored the last five points in the first half and carried over that momentum.
Hauser nailed a 3-pointer on the fastbreak to cut the deficit to 49-35 with less than 15 minutes left in the game, but the Broncos were unable to chop the lead to single digits until Feagin hit a jumper with 3:02 left.
Team Notes: Tonight's game was the 220th meeting in the series, which began in 1908. The Dons are the most common opponent for the Broncos who now lead the series, 113-107 … Sendek is 3-1 vs. the other three new coaches in the WCC. San Francisco head coach Kyle Smith is also in his first season … the Broncos had their largest halftime deficit (44-24) of the season. They trailed by 18 to both Vanderbilt (Nov. 25) and BYU (Dec. 29) … Santa Clara had just seven assists on its 20 field goals, their second-lowest total of the season. The Broncos had six assists vs. San Jose State (Dec. 3).
Individual Notes: Brownridge and Kratch each played in their 122nd consecutive game, equaling the school record set by Mitch Burley from 1985-89. Brownridge also moved with three of the school's all-time career starts mark. He has started all 122 career games, trailing only record holder Kevin Foster (125/2008-13) … Brownridge (2,187) moved within 14 points of LMU's Terrell Lowery (2,201/1988-92) who is fourth on the WCC all-time scoring list … Evan Wardlow (foot) missed his 12th game of the season due to injury … Feagin (26) matched his career high in points, which he posted last season vs. Milwaukee (Nov. 15, 2015). He has scored in double figures in 11 of the last 12 games … Kai Healy played 23 minutes off the bench, his highest total since being on the floor the entire game vs. Loyola Marymount (Jan. 7).
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