LAS VEGAS – A promising season ended on a sour note for Santa Clara men's basketball team against a veteran San Diego squad in the second round of the West Coast Conference tournament.
Seniors Isaiah Wright (23 points/eight assists) and Isaiah Piniero (15 points/nine rebounds) led the way for the seventh-seeded Toreros who stifled the Broncos 62-45 on Friday by holding them to 28 shooting from the floor and forcing 13 turnovers.
San Diego (20-13), which will face BYU in Saturday's quarterfinal round, pulled away early in the second half and led by as many as 24 by shooting 50 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes, including 7-for-12 from behind the 3-point line.
"I think San Diego's defense was tremendous," Santa Clara head coach Heeb Sendek said. "I thought they were really locked in and their physicality bothered us."
Caruso nailed a 3-pointer cut the deficit to 25-19, but the Toreros scored the next eight punctuated by a Piniero slam dunk.
The Broncos, who start just one senior and came into the tournament having won three of their last four games, stopped the bleeding with a pair of Wertz free throws, but Wright, who was 4 of 6 from behind the 3-point line, scored the next five points and the lead grew to 46-22 with 10 minutes remaining.
A layup from Henrik Jadersten capped a 9-0 run for the Broncos to trim the lead to 15 with 5 minutes left, but Wright answered with a pair of baskets.
The Broncos didn't score for the opeing 8 minutes of the game, missing their first 12 shots from the floor and initial two free throw attempts.
The one positive was San Diego hit only three of their first 13 attempts from the floor and led just 7-1 when Wertz scored on a layup with 11:31 remaining in the opening half.
The Toreros extended the lead to 12 with an 8-0 flurry before Wertz hit a 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer to cut the gap to 25-16.
The 16 points for the Broncos were their fewest in any half this season and they hit only 5 of 24 field goal attempts in the opening 20 minutes.
Tyler Williams had nine points and Olin Carter III posted eight points and six rebounds for the Toreros.
• Santa Clara has a 28-31 all-time record in the West Coast Conference tournament, which began with the 1986-87 season. After reaching the semifinals in 2017 for the first time in six years, the Broncos have lost their initial game in each of the last two seasons.
• In a series that began in 1953, Santa Clara leads, 48-38, with wins in nine of the last 13 meetings. The teams split two matchups last season and in 2016-17, but only played once in the regular season. The Broncos won 68-56 in this year's conference opener (Jan. 3), but the previous five meetings were decided by a total of 21 points.
• Wertz scored in double figures in 12 of the final 14 games of the season.