SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Despite giving up a double-digit lead and being caught in a second half battle with the five-win Lions from LMU, Santa Clara rallied down the stretch to capture the 65-62 victory Thursday night and get back to .500 on the season.
With the victory, Santa Clara improves to 10-10 on the year and 4-4 in the WCC. LMU falls to 5-15 and 1-7 in the WCC.
The Broncos return to the floor on Saturday when they host Pepperdine University at 8pm.
Santa Clara shot 47.8 percent from the floor (22 of 46), including 48.0 percent from three point land (12 of 25). The Broncos added 81.8 percent from the foul line (9 of 11). They corralled 24 rebounds, dished out 14 assists, and tallied 2 steals, 2 blocks and 8 turnovers.
For the seventh time in two years, Santa Clara's backcourt duo of Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark led the squad scoring 20 plus points. Clark, scoring a game-high 29 points, jumped two spots on the Santa Clara scoring list and moved into 18th place all-time. Brownridge added to the accolades by draining his 151st career three-pointer while finishing with 20 points and 4 assists, shooting 6 of 10 from distance.
LMU shot 52.2 percent from the field (24 of 46), including 44.4 percent from beyond the arc (4 of 9). The Lions added 62.5 percent from the foul line (10 of 16). They collected 26 rebounds, 14 assists, 6 steals, 2 blocks and 6 turnovers.
Marin Mornar led the Lions with a double-double, scoring 22 points and collecting 11 boards. Godwin Okonji followed with 13 points and 9 boards.
After coughing up an 11 point first half advantage, Santa Clara found itself in a second half battle with the Lions from LMU who came in with one win conference victory under their belts.
"We started really good shooting wise," said Brownridge. "But we needed to pick up our defense in the second half – it was lacking."
After free throws from LMU deadlocked the score at 60-60 with 2:22 left in the ballgame, Brownridge maneuvered his way to the corner, collected a pass from Denzel Johnson and drained a triple.
"Whenever I see Jared with a little daylight, you have to give him the ball," said Clark. "The kid can shoot."
Evan Payne, finishing with 12 points for the Lions, converted a floater 22 seconds later to cut the Santa Clara lead back to one but missed two costly free throws down the stretch. In the final five minutes of play, LMU went 1 of 6 from the foul line.
"We want to make sure to thank all the athletic teams here tonight," said head coach Kerry Keating. "The baseball team was causing so much chaos in the endzone at the end when LMU was shooting free throws. That was great. Evan Payne is a great free throw shooter and he missed two – maybe because of all the noise they were making."
On the next Bronco possession after Payne's score, Brownridge pulled up for a jumper from the foul line but coughed up the basketball and gave the Lions a chance to take the lead. Pushing the floor, Payne drove to the hoop, threw up a wild shot but was unable to convert. With the ball bouncing around, Kratch eventually came away with possession and handed the ball to Clark. Drawing a foul, the senior guard headed to charity stripe and knocked down two free throws to put the Broncos back up by three with 11 seconds remaining.
LMU's Matt Hayes heaved up a deep three from the top of the key in the waning moments but the shot went wide and the Broncos came away with the three point victory.
After two minutes of scoreless basketball to open up the contest, Santa Clara' three starting guards drilled triples to put the Broncos ahead 9-7 by the first media timeout.
Free throws and a wing three from Clark put the Broncos up by as many as seven with 14:22 remaining but four consecutive points by Mornar and a three from Chase Flint tied things back up at 14.
Courtesy of Brownridge, the threes would continue to fall for Santa Clara over the next five minutes of play to give the Broncos a 25-20 lead with 7:12 to go in the first half. Santa Clara shot 64 percent from deep in the first 20 minutes of action.
Two more deep triples from Clark on consecutive possessions prolonged a 17-6 run for Santa Clara lasting over seven minutes of play, pushing the Bronco lead to double-figures at 31-20.
However, sparked by a thunderous dunk from Mornar, the Lions chipped away at the lead and closed the first half on a 13-7 run to put the score at 38-33 in favor of Santa Clara heading into the break.
Opening up the second half, the Lions used their size to attack the paint and close the Santa Clara advantage to four after four minutes of play.
A dunk by Jarvis Pugh at the 14:12 mark, sandwiched by a Clark layup and a bucket inside by Nate Kratch pushed the lead back to double figures but the Lions responded with six consecutive points to cut the lead to four once again.
Mornar converted on two attempts down low to tie the game at 51-51 with 10:09 to go, the first tie since the 11:30 mark in the first half.
The teams would continue to trade baskets over the next five plus minutes resulting in a slim one point lead for Santa Clara with four and a half minutes remaining in the game.
Despite eventually giving up the lead, the Broncos would rally and clinch their tenth win of the season.
"We want this energy to carryover to Saturday," said Brownridge. "We need to always bring our defense. Our most important game on our schedule is our next game on Saturday vs. Pepperdine."
NOTES: Starters for the Broncos (career starts): Brandon Clark (57), Nate Kratch (13), Denzel Johnson (31), Jared Brownridge (53) and Matt Hubbard (18) … Brownridge eclipsed the 850 career point mark with his 20 point performance … Brownridge finished with five three pointers, his 40th career game with two or more in a contest … Clark scored 20 plus points for the third game in a row.