A New Season Begins Friday

A New Season Begins Friday

March 1, 2006

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The third season within the season begins for the Santa Clara men's basketball team Friday when the Broncos play Portland in the first round of the 20th annual West Coast Conference Championships at approximately 8 p.m. in the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash.

Santa Clara enters the event as the number six seed in the eight-team field after finishing in a tie with the Pilots for sixth-place in the league standings after winning both games against Portland during the season. The Broncos finished the regular-season with an 11-15 overall record and 4-9 league mark, but take a three-game win streak into Friday's game.

Every Santa Clara game of the tournament will air live in the Bay Area on KNTS-AM 1220 and/or the Internet via Broncos All-Access with veteran SCU play-by-play announcer David Lewis calling the action. CSTV Online will also be providing live Gametracker coverage on SantaClaraBroncos.com. SCU Athletics will be posting additional premium content such as interviews and features on Broncos All-Access throughout SCU's participation in the event.

Check out live game coverage and other premium content on Broncos All-Access.

Each game of the sold-out tournament will be played at the 6,000-seat McCarthey Athletic Center. This year's event will mark the first time ever for the tournament to be held in Spokane, Wash. and will only the third time it has been conducted outside of the state of California. Sunday evening's tournament semifinals will be televised on ESPN2 while the championship game is scheduled for an ESPN telecast at 6 p.m. Selected games, including all Santa Clara games, will air live on Sirius Satellite Radio.

Senior forward Travis Niesen, a first-team all-WCC selection, ranks second in the WCC with a 19.2 points per game average and is among the career scoring leaders in Bronco basketball history. The Mission Viejo, Calf. native has led Santa Clara in scoring 19 times the season and has surpassed the 20-point barrier 13 times. He scored a season-high 31 points in the Broncos' 83-78 win at San Francisco on Feb. 20.

Sophomores Brody Angley and Mitch Henke each average 9.6 points per game and are the only two Broncos to have started each of the team's 27 contests this season. Angley, a native of Redding, Calif., is the conference leader in steals with 2.0 per game and assist-turnover ratio at 1.99. He is also second in the WCC in assists, handing out 5.0 per game.

Henke, a native of Minnetonka, Minn., is an academic all-WCC selection with his 3.58 grade point average in mathematics. He is second on the team in assists with 2.3 per game and is SCU's top three-point shooter. Henke fell just two assists and two rebounds shy of a triple-double in SCU's 81-70 win over Loyola Marymount on Feb. 25 with 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

Since returning from an ankle injury eight games ago, junior center Sean Denison has averaged 10.9 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. The Nelson, B.C. native has also blocked 11 shots during that time and averaged more than 30 minutes per game.

John Bryant was selected to the WCC all-freshman team (Feldman photo).

As a team, the youthful Broncos lead the league in field goal percentage defense by limiting opponents to just .405 shooting from the field. SCU also leads the WCC in defensive rebounds with 25.26 per game and is third in assist-turnover ratio.

Since the first WCC championship event in 1987, Santa Clara has recorded a 20-17 overall record in the event and has advanced to six championship games. The Broncos own a 2-1 record against Portland in the tournament. SCU is also 5-4 against potential quarterfinal opponent Saint Mary's and 2-4 against potential semifinal opponent Loyola Marymount.

Santa Clara won the inaugural event in 1987 with a 91-60 first round win over Portland, a 55-50 semifinal victory over Saint Mary's and a 77-65 championship game win over Pepperdine. The Broncos also walked away with the 1993 championship after defeating Saint Mary's, Gonzaga and Pepperdine. Both wins came at Memorial Gymnasium in San Francisco.

Portland enters Friday's game as the tournament's number seven seed and finished the regular-season with an 11-17 record and, like Santa Clara, began playing well during the latter part of the season. The Pilots have won three of their last four games with the only loss during that time being a 74-72 overtime decision against San Francisco.

Over the last five games, Portland has averaged 79.4 points per game. The Pilots are led by a trio of seniors: Eugene Jeter, Darren Cooper and Donald Wilson. The three players combine to score 59 percent of the team's points, led by Jeter's 18.2 points per game.

The winner of Friday's game will play third-seeded Saint Mary's College Saturday evening at approximately 8 p.m.

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