Men’s basketball dispatches last two opponents at home
Tyler J. Scott
THE SANTA CLARA
January 29, 2014
After three close wins, the men’s basketball team is riding a four-game streak and now sits in a scrum for third place in the West Coast Conference.
After scoring a mere four points against Gonzaga University on Jan. 10, senior guard Brandon Clark has made quite the resurgence. In three of the last four games since then, Clark has scored 20 or more points per game.
“I really give our coaching staff all the credit for that,” Head Coach Kerry Keating said. “I’ve been searching for ways to connect with (Clark) and really get through, and sometimes you don’t have to search for ways — it’s just a matter of patience and (Clark) has proven himself, time and time again.”
Against Loyola Marymount University last Thursday, Clark scored 29 points, and versus Pepperdine University on Saturday, he had 13.
The Broncos defeated LMU by a score of 65-62 and Pepperdine 60-57, but it wasn’t all Clark.
Versus the Lions, sophomore Jared Brownridge added 20 points, including what Keating called a “backbreaker” three with 1:09 left.
“Whenever I see (Brownridge) with a little daylight, you got to give him the ball,” Clark said. “The kid can shoot, as everybody knows, and when he’s not being double teamed, we are confident he can shoot over one person, too.”
The Broncos went 9-14 (64.3 percent) from the 3-point line in the first half and only four points came from two-point field goals. The team led 38-33 going into halftime.
“They were going in,” Keating said. “Sometimes it’s as simple as that. We got good looks. I think the biggest thing was we had 11 baskets on 11 assists. We were making shots, we were taking good shots and we were showing patience.”
Santa Clara was human from three in the second half but their final 3-point percentage was still a gaudy 48 percent.
LMU tied the game on three different occasions late, but the Broncos held on and pulled out the “W” thanks to some more clutch free throw shooting from Clark, and some key misses from the Lions.
The team now boasts an 8-3 record at home in front of a revamped Santa Clara crowd.
“I’d like to give a shout out to all the Bronco sports teams that were here,” said Clark. “I want to thank the crowd for getting us through the late stretch in the second half. I didn’t even feel tired at the end because I heard — for example, the baseball team — just causing chaos and I really think that they were the reason why those guys missed those free throws late.”
Against Pepperdine, Santa Clara faced another daunting task: playing the streaking Waves coming off an upset loss against the University of San Francisco.
Keating knew they would be coming in “fire and brimstone,” and Brownridge acknowledged that Pepperdine would play “hungry.”
But the Broncos came out hungrier.
Switching between a man and zone defense, Santa Clara maintained the lead for almost the entire game. Pepperdine led 1-0 to begin the game, and that was it.
On a team that seemingly lives and dies by the three, the Broncos shot only 21.4 percent on the game from long range. Santa Clara still took the win, though, thanks to some quality contributions and minutes from the Bronco big men.
Redshirt freshman Emmanuel Ndumanya contributed eight points on 4-5 shooting and three rebounds in only 16 minutes of play.
“(Ndumanya) scored four baskets — that’s found money,” Keating said. “Pretty inspiring, and hopefully an impetus for him to build on and maybe get a little more confident.”
Sophomore Nate Kratch also added 10 points on 4-4 shooting, five rebounds and a big block toward the end of the game to help Santa Clara seal the win. He has gone 10-11 from the field in the last three games.
Clark finished the game with big free throws again, making three of his last four. The Waves finished the game 0-11 from the 3-point line, including the last-second tying attempt.
The Broncos now find themselves in a battle for third place in the WCC, and the coaches and players are far from surprised.
“People are going to have their opinions,” Kratch said. “As a team, you just have to come together every game and focus and just think about the process and trying to get better every day. We’ve got to stay humble right now and get back to work on Monday.”
Contact Tyler Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.