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SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Santa Clara travels to Las Vegas for the West Coast Conference Championship this weekend. No. 7 seed Santa Clara will play No. 6 seed San Diego on Fri., March 5 at 8:15 pm in the Orleans Arena. It is the second straight year the two schools will meet in the WCC Championship (last year it was the quarter-final game). In last year's tournament, Santa Clara defeated USD, 80-69, behind John Bryant's 27-rebound performance on March 7, 2009. The winner will play No. 3 seed Portland at approximately 8:30 pm on Sat., March 6.
Santa Clara is 11-20, including 3-11 in the WCC. Santa Clara's seventh place finish was its worst since it finished seventh in 1974-75, Carroll Williams fifth season as head coach. Williams led the Broncos to top-half finishes the next 13 of 17 seasons.
San Diego is 10-20 and finished 3-11 in the WCC. San Diego defeated Pepperdine at home on Saturday, 65-48 and prior to that the Toreros had lost 11 of their last 12 games.
The two teams split the season series for the second straight year this season, with each winning on the other's floor both years. San Diego won 55-46 on Jan. 8, 2010 and then Santa Clara returned the favor with a 59-43 win in San Diego on Feb. 6, 2010.
It is the two team's 68th career meeting. In a series that began with a 66-65 victory by USD on Dec., 19, 1963, Santa Clara leads the all-time series, 37-30. USD swept the season series in 2007-08, Santa Clara swept the season in 2006-07 and the two split in 2005-06.
In Monday's WCC Championship tele-conference, Bronco head coach Kerry Keating first congratulated the All-WCC honorees and then made an opening statement: "We are looking forward to taking our young team into the tournament. More than half our team hasn't been there before and so it will be a good experience for all of us and a new one as well. We know we have some motivation - so does San Diego - and we have to take advantage of this opportunity. Certainly our team has been through plenty of ups and downs. And so has San Diego. I know we will have a great game on Friday night because we will play hard."
Keating was asked what some of the keys to winning on Friday were for the Broncos. "The biggest key that will help us have success vs. San Diego is that Marc Trasolini scores. He didn't score in the first game at our place and he didn't score a field goal in the second game, although he did score on free throws (. We don't expect it to be a terribly high-scoring game so we need to make sure we do score when we have the ball. We saw a lot of zone in the first game and then in the second game, we were better as a team and were able to overcome Marc not scoring. They did keep the ball out of his hands. He did rebound well in that game and also made a lot of free throws. We know it'll be a low possession game on both sides so we have to score when we can."
Keating was also asked about Portland being the team the winner will play. "That's the team that's waiting for us if we are lucky and fortunate to win on Friday - Portland. The circumstances are different when you have to play Gonzaga and Portland back-to-back during the regular season twice. But they are the same team we just played on Saturday, if we are fortunate enough to get there, and so that would be a test for us because they have a lot of experienced players."
The San Diego game will be broadcast via the Bronco Radio Network on both KDOW 1220 AM and Broncos All-Access on the web at www.SantaClaraBroncos.com with the pre-game beginning at 8:00 pm. Anthony Passarelli is in his third season as the Broncos' play-by-play announcer.
Coach Kerry Keating can be heard on KDOW 1220 AM on Sunday evenings from 8:30-9 pm in his radio spotlight on The Sports Ramble, hosted by Chetan Chaudhari. If you are out of the listening area, KDOW is streamed online live at www.1220kdow.com.
Trasolini and Smith Honored by WCC Coaches
Marc Trasolini and Robert Smith were both honored March 1 by the West Coast Conference as part of the conference's post-season awards. Trasolini was named to the All-WCC Honorable Mention team and Smith was named to the five-man WCC All-Freshman Team. The awards were voted on by the league coaches.
Trasolini leads the team with 14.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg and 1.7 bpg. He also leads the team in league play with 13.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg and 1.2 bpg. He is the team's second-best free throw shooter, making better than 78 percent of his shots.
Trasolini is one of the WCC leaders as well, ranking in the top 10 of seven categories in overall stats and in the top 10 of four categories in league play. In overall stats, he is No. 3 in bpg; No. 4 in field goal percentage (53.8%); No. 8 in rpg and offensive rebounds; No. 9 in ppg; and No. 10 in free throw percentage (78.2%) and No. 10 in defensive rebounds. In league play he is No. 4 in bpg; No. 9 in ppg and defensive rebounds; and No. 10 in ppg.
Trasolini was named to the WCC All-Freshman team last season. Off the court, he was the only player from the WCC or Pac-10 to be named to the All-District Academic All-American team this season and was also named to the WCC Winter Scholar-Athlete Team.
"Marc has had to step into a major role this season with last season's top three scorers gone and has filled in admirably. He continues to improve and I expect even greater things from in as his junior season approaches," said Bronco head coach Kerry Keating.
Smith leads the team with 3.1 apg and playing 32.9 mpg. He is second on the team with 12.0 ppg and overall and 12.4 ppg in league play. Smith already has broken the Santa Clara freshman school record, playing 1,020 minutes this season. He should finish in the top three of seven freshman record categories as well.
Smith is No. 6 in WCC overall stats with 32.9 mpg. He is No. 5 in mpg and 8 in apg in league play.
"Robert has been through a long process this year without last season's conference newcomer of the year, Kevin Foster, by his side all season," said Keating. "With that said, I'm proud that he and his fellow classmates could continue to improve this entire season. Robert being recognized by our coaches as an all freshman selection is well deserved and will be a great base for him to build on with his teammates as our future approaches. He is among great company on the five-man team and will be a part of our conference's continued growth."
Of note, of the six players named to the WCC All-Freshman team in 2006-07, only Matt Bouldin (Gonzaga) and Omar Samhan (Saint Mary's) were named to the WCC First Team this season as seniors.
Youth is Served
Santa Clara is averaging 64.2 ppg this season with no seniors. Almost 75 percent of Santa Clara's points this season, including those from sophomore Kevin Foster, are coming from its underclassmen. The top four active scorers are all underclassmen and if you throw in Foster, it's the top five. The top four active scorers include sophomore Marc Trasolini (14.0 ppg) and the freshmen trio of Robert Smith (12.0 ppg), Niyi Harrison (7.5 ppg) and Ray Cowels (7.3 ppg). Foster played in six games prior to breaking his foot and was lost for the season in the win at UC Santa Barbara. Foster had posted 19.8 ppg and 119 points through the first six games.
SCU's grabs 34.5 rpg this year. More than 63 percent are coming from underclassman with Trasolini leading the way with 6.2 rpg.
All season long the Santa Clara youth has been discussed with the Broncos featuring the seventh-youngest team in the country (statsheet.com). Of the nine active players on scholarship this year, Santa Clara has zero seniors, three juniors, two sophomores and four freshmen. it is the youngest team in the league this season.
It is only fourth time in 61 years (starting line-ups were kept beginning in 1949-50) that Santa Clara does not have a senior starter. The last time there wasn't a senior starter: it was Steve Nash's junior year (1994-95). Nash, a two-time WCC Player of the Year, has gone on to win two NBA MVP awards. He played in his seventh NBA All-Star game on Feb. 14 as a starter. He also won the 2010 NBA Skills competition for the second time in his career. On Feb. 12, he became the first NBA player to ever light the Olympic Flame, hoisting the flame at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Using the same Bronco line-up 12 of the last 13 games, if counting seniors as a four, juniors as a three, etc. -- with the current starters, it's the second-youngest starting line-up Santa Clara has had in 33 years. That line-up in 1976-77 included a freshman named Kurt Rambis, who went on to be the WCC Player of the Year and a multi-time NBA champion with the Lakers. He is currently the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. It is the fourth time in 33 years the starting line-up has scored a 12 or younger. The current Bronco line-up includes Michael Santos (3), Ben Dowdell (3), Troy Payne (3), Marc Trasolini (2) and Robert Smith (1).
Santa Clara's top two scorers this season, Marc Trasolini (435) and Robert Smith (371) have combined to score 806 points. They need to score a combined 15 more points in the next game to jump into the school's top 20 scoring tandems. No. 20 is Brian Jones (413) and Nathan Fast (408) with 821 points in 1999-2000. No. 19 is Travis Niesen (528) and Brody Angley (294) with 822 points in 2005-06.
Top 10 Team
Santa Clara is in the top 10 of two season-best categories this season. They are No. 3 all-time in a season with 118 blocks and need just two more to move to No. 2, passing the 1987-88 team with 117. Last season's team has the school record for a season with 156, including 84 from WCC Player of the Year John Bryant.
Santa Clara's 222 steals this season are No. 5 on the SCU single season list. They are tied with the 1982-83 team. They need four steals to reach the top 3. No. 4 is 223 (1983-84), No. 3 is 227 (1987-88), No. 2 is 231 and No. 1 is 232 (1997-98).
Marc Trasolini is working to follow in the footsteps of career blocks leader John Bryant. Trasolini, with 48 this season, needs two blocks to pass what Bryant put up his sophomore year (49, 2006-07) so it's conceivable he could go after Bryant's career record if Trasolini stays on an improving pace his junior and senior years. Bryant's career record is 246 over his four years.
The school record for blocks in a season was set by Bryant last season when he collected 84 swats. Trasolini tied John Bryant's freshman record with 37 blocks last season so has already topped his freshman total with at least three games left. Trasolini's 86 career blocks put him at No. 5 and he trails No. 4 Kurt Rambis (93, 1976-80) by seven blocks.
Freshman Niyi Harrison is quietly blocking shots this season as well. He has 21 on the season which is currently No. 5 on the all-time freshman list. He needs five to pass Jen Gordon, who blocked 25 shots in 1985-86, his freshman year.
SCU has two active players averaging double figures: Marc Trasolini (14.0 ppg) and Robert Smith (12.0 ppg). Trasolini has hit double figures 25 times this season, including three double-doubles (four career double-doubles). Smith has scored in double figures 21 times. Kevin Foster averaged 19.8 ppg in his first six games, but he is out for the season with a broken foot.
In league play, Trasolini leads the team with 13.8 ppg and Smith has 13.4 ppg. Smith leads the team with 3.1 apg, including 3.1 apg in WCC play. Smith had a career-high seven assists and eight rebounds in the USF game on Feb. 20.
Trasolini has 1.6 bpg; and swatted a career-high five blocks vs. then-No. 8 Gonzaga. Trasolini is averaging a team-leading 1.3 bpg in league play. Trasolini averages a team-leading 6.2 rpg and Troy Payne is second with 5.8 rpg. Payne has 7+ rebounds in 14 games this season, including a career-high vs. Menlo, 10 vs. LMU, nine at Pepperdine and vs. New Hampshire and Fresno State.
As of March 1, Santa Clara is No. 44 in the country in free throws made and No. 33 nationally in free throws attempted, according to statsheet.com. Santa Clara is 492 of 723 from the line this season, knocking down better than 68 percent of its attempts. It is scoring almost 25 percent of its points from the free throw line this year. To hit the top 10 single season chart, Santa Clara would need at least 538 made (1980-81) and 770 attempts (2000-01).
Last season Santa Clara hit 434 of 613 free throws, making 71 percent of those, but free throws only accounted for 20 percent of the team's total points.
Robert Smith is quickly running up the Santa Clara freshman records. His name is already etched in the record books in 11 categories (see complete list on page four of the notes). In the game at Portland on Feb. 27, Smith logged 32 minutes to shatter Kevin Foster's school record for minutes played in a season with 1,020. Last year Foster broke junior Ben Dowdell's record of 890 minutes (2007-08) by playing in 1,000 minutes. The previous record, prior to Dowdell, was 842 minutes played by Kyle Bailey (2000-01). His 32.9 mpg are No. 15 nationally among freshmen.
Smith will or has a chance to finish in the top three of the following Santa Clara freshman records:
Stat Smith Next Step Freshman Record
Minutes No. 1 No. 1, 1,020 (new freshman record set at Portland)
FG Att. No. 2, 367 396, Kevin Foster
FT Made No. 2, 86 98, Brian Jones
Assists No. 2, 95 119, Brian Jones
FT Att. No. 3, 124 No. 2, 125, Kurt Rambis 142, Brian Jones
Steals No. 5, 31 No. 4, 34, Harold Keeling 49, Steve Kenilvort
Smith is also in the Bronco single season top 10 for minutes played with 1,020 minutes. He is averaging almost 33 minutes a game. If he plays his average vs. San Diego, he will move to No. 4 in single season minutes (passing Mitch Burley at No. 4 with 1,046). Kyle Bailey would be the next step at No. 3, playing 1,064 minutes during the 2004-05 season. See the following:
Stat Smith Next Step Single Season School Record
Marc Trasolini is averaging 14.0 ppg this season - more than double what he scored his freshman campaign (6.7 ppg) when he shot 68.1 percent to break the school record for field goal percentage. He is also averaging 1.5 more rebounds a game than last season and a half of a block more each game as well. He has 14 games with 15+ points this season. He has scored 20+ five times this year. He has scored 20+ six times in his two-year career. Trasolini's previous career-best was 24 points at New Hampshire on Jan. 4, 2009.
Trasolini has hit 124 of 156 free throws this season, including hitting 63 of 79 free throws in the last 16 games (79.7 percent). More than 28 percent of Trasolini's points this year come from the charity stripe with Trasolini scoring a team-high 435 points this year. Last year 21 percent of his points came from free throws (43 of 64 made (67%); 201 points total scored).