Niyi Harrison scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead to Broncos but it was not enough to stop No. 8/13 Gonzaga in front of a sold-out Leavey Center as the Zags came away with a 71-64 victory. Santa Clara falls to 9-14 and 1-5 in the WCC and Gonzaga moves to 17-3 and 6-0 in WCC.
"I am proud of our effort and disappointed we lost. Our young team took another step, but we have to close out games," said Santa Clara Head Coach Kerry Keating. "We have to be a little better and a little tougher. It's a lesson learned. We can beat anyone in the country in a 35-minute game but we have been doing that for two months. The guys are playing so hard and so energetic and they want to make the right play and instead make mistakes. I tell them `never be afraid to make a mistake just don't make it twice.' It's the next step for us to take that next step.
"We talked about it all week but we didn't play like we quite understand the approach," said Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few. "Santa Clara was going to come in with us at first they punched us in the face figuratively and we didn't react very well to that they were way more aggressive than we were. Santa Clara deserves a lot of credit and they really took it to us the first 30 minutes.
A 26-6 run by Gonzaga in the final 13 minutes of the game fueled the Bulldogs to a 71-64 win.
Santa Clara shot 44.9 percent from the field, including 50 percent from beyond the arc. The Broncos collected 26 rebounds, 12 steals and eight blocks with 16 turnovers. Gonzaga shot 48.1 percent from the field, including 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs collected 32 rebounds, nine steals and seven blocks, and had 17 turnovers.
Matt Bouldin led the Bulldogs with 19 points and six assists. Steven Gray finished with 19 points. Elias Harris finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds on the night.
The Broncos opened up the contest with a 7-0 run which was capped off by a jump shot by Smith at 18:22. Gonzaga responded right back with an 8-0 run to take an 8-7 lead with 15:55.
Harrison then entered the game and made his presence felt right away as he scored the next five points for the Broncos to but Santa Clara back in front 12-10 with 12:53. Bouldin nailed a three for the Bulldogs with 12:25 and it cut the Bronco's lead to 14-13.
Troy Payne hit three free throws for the Broncos, and Trasolini knocked down his second three of the night to put Santa Clara in front 20-15 with 9:10 remaining.
Smith hit throw free throws for Santa Clara and Harrison scored on back-to-back possessions for the Broncos to push the lead to 26-19 at 5:16. Ray Cowels nailed a three in the corner to extend the lead to 31-21 with 4:17. A field goal by Robert Sacre and two free throws by Bouldin cut the Bronco's lead to 31-25 with 3:45.
Gonzaga went on an 8-3 run capped off by a three by Gray with 58 seconds left in the half to cut Santa Clara's lead to 36-33, but Smith's jumper with 28 seconds remaining put the Broncos up 38-33, which was the score at the half.
Harris opened up the first half for Gonzaga with two free throws, but the Broncos responded right away with a 6-0 run capped off by a fast break basket by Smith at 17:35. Smith's bucket put the Broncos up 44-35.
Trasolini nailed threes on back-to-back possessions at 16:04 and 15:31 to put the Broncos ahead 50-37. Payne converted a three-point play for the Broncos to push the Broncos lead to 53-39. Smith nailed another three at 13:10 to push Broncos lead to 58-45. Gonzaga went on a 6-0 run capped off by a free throw by Gray at 11:05.
Two free throws by Harris cut the Broncos lead to two, 61-59, and capped off a 14-3 run at 6:17. Michael Santos converted a three-point play on the next possession at 5:54 to put the Broncos up 64-59.
Gray nailed a three for Gonzaga at 5:06 to cut Santa Clara's lead to only one, 64-63. Mangisto Arop's bucket at 4:02 put the Bulldogs in front, 65-64, for the first time since the score was 10-9 with 14:38 left in the first half. Gonzaga finished the game on a 26-6 run in the last 12:55 to take hold of the game and the final score was 71-64.