SANTA CLARA, Calif. – A balanced scoring attack and its best defensive performance of the season sent Santa Clara men's basketball to victory in Tuesday's matchup with UC Riverside.
Nate Kratch (18) and Matt Hauser (career-high 18) combined to score 36 points for the Broncos (5-6) who shot 47 percent from the floor in claiming a 77-53 win against UC Riverside (1-5) in the team's final nonconference home game.
Henrik Jadersten and Kai Healy provided a boost off the bench. Healy posted his first-career double-double with 10 points and a career-high tying 10 rebounds. Jadersten scored 13 points and collected seven rebounds as Santa Clara (5-6) held the Highlanders to 32-percent shooting from the field and received a season-high 25 points off the bench.
Leading scorer Jared Brownridge was held to a season-low seven points on 2-for-10 shooting from the floor, snapping his 32-game streak in double figures. But his scoring wasn't needed in a game the Broncos led from start to finish.
Secean Johnson scored a team-high 10 points for the Highlanders who were only able to connect on eight field goals in the second half. He was the lone UC Riverside player in double figures.
Johnson's jumper closed what was a double-digit first-half deficit to 39-36 with only three minutes gone in the second half, but the Broncos scored the next 10 points. Pugh started the run with a layup and Kratch, who connected on 7 of 13 from the floor, nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it a nine-point advantage.
But with the Highlanders cold from the floor and Hauser pushing the pace, the Broncos kept extending the lead.
A 12-0 run increased the edge to 73-46 with less than five minutes to go in the game. The Broncos had their largest margin of victory vs. a Division I opponent since defeating Loyola Marymount, 85-54, on March 5, 2015, in the West Coast Conference Tournament.
"I thought our guys came out and really defended and focused in the second half," Santa Clara head coach Herb Sendek said. "This was our fourth game in a row where our opponent has been in the 50's so I think we're getting better on defense. We're much more focused on what we're doing."
Hauser connected on 6 of 13 field-goal attempts and posted his third-career double-double (all this season).
"Hauser continues to do a great job," Sendek said. "He had 10 assists and only two turnovers. Our team had 18 assists on 26 field goals and they continue to really share the ball."
The Broncos led by as many as 16 in the first half before the Highlanders, who had a 13-day break since their last game, whittled away.
A 9-0 run in less than a two-minute span cut the Santa Clara lead to 23-16. Malik Thames nailed a 3-pointer and Gentrey Thomas followed two free throws with a layup.
Santa Clara pushed the lead back to double digits when Hauser connected on his second 3-pointer of the half, but Johnson scored five straight for the Highlanders to make it 27-21 with 6:02 left.
Menno Dijkstra established himself in the low post late in the half. The 7-foot sophomore scored the final four points of the half for the Highanders who were able to take advantage of foul trouble for the Broncos.
Emmanuel Ndumanya, who started his second-straight game at center and produced eight rebounds, picked up three fouls in the opening 20 minutes. He was one of five players two or more fouls in the half.
VIDEO | With the @WCCSports #TopPlayTuesday still hot off the presses, @SantaClaraHoops makes an early bid for next week's edition thanks to a great pass by Matt Hauser and a dunk from Emmanuel Nudmanya. Check out highlights from the victory over UC Riverside and interviews with Kai Healy/Nate Kratch at YouTube.com/SantaClaraBroncos. #StampedeAhead #SCUBroncos #WCCHoops #NCAA #Basketball #SlamDunk #Dunk
"We got off to a good start and then we didn't execute some things," Sendek said. "We got into some foul trouble and bailed them out by fouling at times. The next thing you know, it was nip and tuck going into the half."
But Kratch was able to take over the scoring load early in the second half, tallying 10 of the team's first 20 points. He 13 points overall in the second half when the lead grew to 27 three times in the final five minutes.
The Broncos now hit the road for the next three games, beginning Saturday against Washington State. Santa Clara plays at Valparaiso on Thursday, Dec. 22, and then at BYU on Dec. 29 in the West Coast Conference opener. Santa Clara faces San Francisco in the league home opener on Saturday, Dec. 31.
Notes: Tonight's game was the third meeting between the teams. Santa Clara downed UC Riverside, 63-61, in the opening round of the Cable Car Classic on Dec. 28, 2005. The Highlanders won 77-63 last season in Riverside … Healy recorded his first-career double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) and is the first Bronco to haul in more than nine rebounds in a game this season ... Hauser notched his third double-double of the season, scoring a career-high 18 points and dishing out 10 assists ... Hauser and Healy are the first Bronco teammates to record double-doubles in the same game since Marc Trasolini (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Troy Payne (12 points & 10 rebounds) on Feb. 11, 2010 ... Hauser improved on his league-leading 4.23-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, with just two turnovers to his 10 assists ... the Broncos got a season-high 25 points from the bench ... UC Riverside set a season-high in blocked shots, recording five on the night and four in the first 13 minutes of the game.
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