SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Taking a quick break from West Coast Conference action, the Santa Clara men's basketball team took care of business against Saint Katherine College Tuesday night at the Leavey Center. Nine Santa Clara scorers pitched in to down the Firebirds 77-63.
Santa Clara is now 8-10 on the season and 2-4 in the WCC. With the loss, Saint Katherine drops to 5-15 on the year. The Broncos welcome Bay Area rival USF on Saturday at 3 pm.
Santa Clara shot 54.9 percent from the field (28 of 51), including 42.9 percent from beyond the arc (9 of 21). The Broncos added 85.7 percent from the free throw line (12 of 14). They collected 37 rebounds, dished out 23 assists, and added 6 steals, 1 block and 16 turnovers.
Brandon Clark led all scorers with 22 points, eclipsing 1,300 career points in the process. He is the 20th Bronco in school history to score 1300 career points. The senior guard was 7 of 9 from the field and 3 of 4 from deep. Clark's backcourt teammate Jared Brownridge added 16 points and 4 assists for his 40th career double figure game of his young career. Matt Hubbard rounded out the double digit scorers for Santa Clara with 12 points, shooting 5 of 8 from the floor and corralling eight boards.
Saint Katherine shot 41.1 percent from the field (23 of 56), including 31.8 percent from three point land (7 of 22). They added 71.4 percent from the foul line (10 of 14). They totaled 22 rebounds, 13 assists, 10 steals, no blocks and 9 turnovers.
The Firebirds were led by three double digit scorers. Aragad Abramian led the way with 16 points, including shooting 4 of 7 from downtown. Anthony Miller followed with 15 points and 5 rebounds. LeSean Gallbreath tallied 14 points to go along with 5 boards and 3 assists.
After the opening tip, Santa Clara coughed up the basketball four times in the first two and a half minutes of play. Fortunately for the Broncos, the Firebirds were unable to convert on the offensive end, shooting just 1-7 from the floor in the opening minutes to keep the game intact early. Emmanuel Ndumanya used his size down low to put the Broncos on the board for the first time, evening up the early low scoring affair score at 2-2 after the first media timeout.
Eventually finding their form offensively, Clark found room in the lane and converted a lay-up, igniting a 12-3 Santa Clara run over the next five minutes to put the Broncos up 14-5 with 10:46 remaining in the first half.
Spacing the floor, the Firebirds countered and clawed back to close the deficit to 19-14 with 7:00 minutes to go. In the middle of a four and a half minute drought without a bucket, Denzel Johnson spotted up and buried a well-timed three from the left wing to put the Broncos back up by eight.
After trading scores over the next three minutes, Santa Clara's lead was once aging cut to five points until Clark drilled a three from the wing and followed with two free throws on the next possession to give the Broncos their first double digit advantage of the ballgame. Santa Clara kept its lead at 10 heading into the locker room, leading 33-23 at the break.
Coming out of halftime, Clark penetrated into the lane and kicked it back out to Hubbard who drained the wide open three from the top of the key. Two possessions later, Hubbard stepped out again beyond the three point line and connected for his second three of the contest, putting the Broncos up 39-25 two and a half minutes into the second half.
Continuing to keep pace, Abramian nailed a corner three, cutting the Santa Clara lead back down to single digits, 41-33 with 14:51 to go.
Ndumanya responded with two makes from the stripe and Clark converted on an old-fashioned three point play on the next possession to push the lead back to 13.
The Firebirds would hang around and stay within striking distance, cutting to lead to as few as nine on two separate occasions over the next three and a half minutes of play.
Clark's second triple of the game gave Santa Clara breathing room once again, pushing the lead back to 13 with 9:20 remaining. The teams would continue to trade baskets over the next five and a half minutes of play and the lead would hover between nine and 13 points for the Broncos.
Down the stretch, Santa Clara found its largest lead of the contest at 15 at the 1:36 mark following a transition layup by Clark after the outlet pass from Brownridge. The Broncos finished out the contest to earn their eighth win of the season.
NOTES: Starters for the Broncos (career starts): Brandon Clark (54), Nate Kratch (10), Denzel Johnson (28), Jared Brownridge (50) and Matt Hubbard (15) … Clark tallied a season-high 8 rebounds … Kai Healy chipped in off the bench with a career high 2 assists … Hubbard added career highs in assists and steals with 2 each.