SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara men's basketball was in position for its second upset in as many games, but No. 21/21 Saint Mary's made enough plays down the stretch to hold on for a 72-59 victory on Saturday.
Jock Landale tallied a game-high 20 points, Emmitt Naar had 15 and nine assists, and Calvin Hermanson scored 13, including a key 3-pointer with less than three minutes left, for the Gaels (19-2, 9-1), who shot 57 percent from the floor.
Nate Kratch scored a team-high 19 points and Jared Brownridge tallied 13, though was only 3 of 14 from the field, for the Broncos (12-11, 6-4) who were just 6-for-22 from behind the 3-point line in the game and 36 percent overall in the second half.
Santa Clara cut a 16-point second-half deficit to 55-50 on a Brownridge 3-pointer with 6:11 left. But the Gaels responded with 10-2 run with Hermanson scoring five points. His 3-pointer with the shot clocking running down off a Naar feed increased the lead to 65-52 and sealed the Gaels' 14th win in their last 15 games.
The Broncos played without starting guard Matt Hauser who was sidelined with the flu. The team had just eight scholarship players available and four played at least 35 minutes.
Saint Mary's quick start to the second half proved too much to overcome. The Gaels scored 12 of the first 14 to push a five-point halftime lead to 47-35 with 15:15 left in the game. Naar sandwiched a pair of layups around a Hermanson 3-pointer and the Broncos went 8 of 9 from the field to start the second half.
Santa Clara got a spark from Emmanuel Ndumanya who started a 13-2 run with layup and kept it going with a pair of steals. His 3-point play cut the lead into single digits with less than eight minutes left. He matched his career high with nine points.
KJ Feagin had 11 points and a season-high eight assists, but he and Brownridge combined to hit only 8 of 29 from the floor.
"They did a good job and he probably didn't bring his 'A' game," Santa Clara head coach Herb Sendek said about Brownridge's accuracy. "But people are trying to stop him every game and he doesn't get to come out of the game. He has terrific mental toughness and we've asked him to do a lot."
Joe Rahon, who had eight points and five assists, shadowed Brownridge for the majority of the game.
"We did a pretty good job on him (Jared) last year," Saint Mary's head coach Randy Bennett said. "He's a heck of a player—one of the best to play in this conference. I have so much respect for that kid. But, Joe Rahon is one of the best defenders in this conference, so that was key. You have to do a good job on Brownridge and then everybody else starts getting going too."
In Thursday's win against BYU, Santa Clara connected on a season-high tying 14 3-pointers, but couldn't duplicate that effort against the Gaels who allow opponents to hit only 31 percent from behind the 3-point line.
The Broncos did get the start they needed in an attempt to knock off a deep Gaels squad.
Both teams hit 5 of their first 6 shots, but the Broncos missed their next eight allowing Saint Mary's to sprint to a 26-11 lead.
Landale, who had a game-high 10 rebounds, was the catalyst with 10 points during a 16-0 run.
But the Broncos clawed their way back behind Kratch, who connected both inside and from the perimeter. His 3-pointer from the left wing cut the deficit to 30-24 with less than three minutes remaining in the half. He had 14 of the team's 30 first-half points.
Evan Wardlow started in place of Hauser and contributed six points and two assists.
"Evan really battled for us tonight and gave us some good minutes," Sendek said.
After four straight at home, the Broncos now hit the road for four, beginning Thursday at Portland. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
Team Notes: The two top teams in the WCC in assist percentage combined to assist on 76.5 percent of the field goals made in the game. Santa Clara recorded 18 assists on 23 buckets (78.2 percent) while Saint Mary's assisted on 18 of 24 field goals made (75 percent) ... the Broncos turned the ball over just four times, their lowest total in a game this season ... the Gaels controlled the tempo, recording just 56 possessions on the night, four below their nation-lowest average of 60.2 possessions per game ... SMC shot 16 of 20 from the charity stripe while the SCU knocked down seven of the 10 they attempted ... Santa Clara hauled in a season-low 20 rebounds, losing the rebounding battle to Saint Mary's by 11 ... the Gaels shot 57.1 percent from the field, the highest an opponent has shot from the field against the Broncos this season.
Individual Notes: In just the sixth start of his career and first of the season, Wardlow chipped in six points, two rebounds and two assists in a season-high 32 minutes ... Kratch's 14 points was his second-best 1st-half total of the season, second only to his 15 points in the first half against Cal State East Bay (Dec. 10). He finished the game tying his season-high of 19 points ... Brownridge's five-game streak of recording more than 20 points was snapped as he tallied just 13 points on the night ... with his eight assists, Feagin has dished out 5+ assists in eight consecutive games ... Ndumanya tied career-highs in points (nine), steals (three) and minutes (35).
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