SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Meeting for the 215th time in series history, Santa Clara withstood a second half surge from USF to finish with a 70-64 victory on Saturday afternoon in the Leavey Center. The Broncos' backcourt tandem of Brandon Clark and Jared Brownridge combined for 41 points to propel Santa Clara to its ninth victory of the season.
With the win, Santa Clara improves to 9-10 on the season and 3-4 in the WCC. USF drops to 8-11 and 2-5 in the WCC.
The Broncos return to the hardwood on January 22 when they host LMU at 8 pm at the Leavey Center.
Santa Clara shot 45.0 percent from the field (18 of 40), including 47.6 percent from beyond the arc (10 of 21). The Broncos finished shooting 80.0 percent from the free throw line (24 of 30). They collected 32 rebounds, dished out 15 assists, and added 2 steals, 2 blocks and 13 turnovers.
Clark led all scorers with 23 points, nailing a season-high four triples. It was the 20th time in two years he has scored 20+. He also added 8 rebounds to go along with 5 assists. Brownridge finished with 18 points and 6 boards, hitting 10 of 11 from the free throw line. Denzel Johnson rounded out the double digit Santa Clara scorers with 11 points and 5 assists.
USF shot 40.4 percent from the floor (23 of 57), including 18.2 percent from three point land (4 of 22). They shot 58.3 percent from the foul line (14 of 24). They totaled 31 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 1 block and 6 turnovers.
Kruize Pinkins led the Dons with 16 points and 7 boards. Mark Tollefsen finished with a double-double, scoring 14 points and tallying 10 rebounds. Devin Watson added 13 points and 4 assists.
Igniting Santa Clara early, Clark scored the first seven points of the game, drilling a three from the right wing and following with a four-point play on the very next possession after nailing a triple from the corner while drawing contact.
Over the next five minutes of play, USF would respond with an 8-0 run to take its first lead at 8-7 with 14:22 remaining in the first.
Benefitting from 1-in-1 situations, the Dons eventually turned their early run into a 17-6 swing that put them ahead by as many as five with just under 10 minutes gone by in the first half.
Finding space down low, Kratch squared things back up at 17-17 with 7:09 remaining after converting two buckets inside on consecutive possessions.
After trading scores over the next four minutes, the Broncos erupted for three triples in a minute and a half span to extend their lead to eight. Clark, scoring 15 first half points, drilled a deep three to break a 25-25 tie, Johnson converted from the top of the key and followed that with a 25 footer as the shot clock was expiring.
Closing out the first half on a 16-3 run, the Broncos pushed their lead to 39-28 heading into the locker room after Brownridge connected on three free throws after drawing the foul.
Coming out of the break, Brownridge scored eight out of the first 10 Santa Clara points of the second half, including two threes from the wing, to push the Bronco lead to 15 at the first media timeout.
Continuing to keep on the accelerator, the Broncos extended their lead to 18 points at the 13:30 mark after a corner triple from Johnson. Five minutes later, Clark drove through the lane and dished it to Kai Healy in the corner who buried another three to give Santa Clara its first 20 point lead with 8:21 left in the game.
San Francisco managed to put together a 9-0 run during a Santa Clara scoring drought over the next four minutes of play to cut the Bronco lead to 11 with five minutes left.
The Dons continued to rally in the remaining minutes, closing their deficit to six points with 1:38 remaining after Pinkins crashed the offensive glass and finished with a put-back score.
In the end, late free throws by the Broncos down the stretch were enough to repel the USF charge and secure the Santa Clara conference victory.
NOTES: Starters for the Broncos (career starts): Brandon Clark (55), Nate Kratch (11), Denzel Johnson (29), Jared Brownridge (51), and Matt Hubbard (16) … Brownridge finished with a career high 10 free throws made … Clark finished a perfect 9-for-9 from the free throw line.