Santa Clara looks to rebound after loss to Gonzaga
THE SANTA CLARA
February 9, 2017
Santa Clara could not play the role of Cinderella on Saturday in Spokane, falling 90-55 to Gonzaga University, the top team in the land. Unlike January’s game at the Leavey Center, where the Broncos hung with the Bulldogs for stretches, the Zags were dominant throughout on their homecourt.
Gonzaga’s dynamic offense was able to muster 53 points in the second half during their rout of their WCC rival.
The blowout loss could have deflated the Broncos, but instead has them looking ahead to the home stretch of conference play.
“We have a resilient group, still competing when I felt like we could have easily given up,” said sophomore guard KJ Feagin. “We keep at it, we don’t dwell on the past too much and I think that bodes well for us going into the next game.”
Feagin had a team-high 18 points for Santa Clara.
The next game is a big one for the currently fifth-ranked Broncos in the WCC, as they head to San Francisco to face the fourth-ranked USF squad on Thursday Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.
Santa Clara secured a comfortable 72-58 home victory in their last meeting on New Year’s Eve, but Head Coach Herb Sendek maintains that Thursday is a fresh slate.
“That game will have no bearing on Thursday’s game. None of the baskets scored count,” Sendek said. “That game was played so long ago that both teams have evolved tremendously since that contest, so it’s going to be a new game and new day.”
The Dons feature a guard-heavy offense. Their two leading scorers are their starters in the backcourt, Ronnie Boyce and Charles Minlend, but the Broncos matchup well with that style of offense.
“We play three guards too, so it won’t be too much of a problem,” Feagin said. “We are really starting to gel and find each other on the court, and starting to become a good core.”
Still, the defensive challenge remains as the entire Dons offense can pose a threat. The Broncos will have to play at the top of their game to have chance against the Dons
“They are a tough group of kids, so we have to come out with an edge, like Coach (Sendek) will say,” Feagin said.
The contest between Santa Clara and San Francisco is a likely preview of the fourth vs. fifth seed matchup in the WCC Tournament, with the winner of Thursday’s game in the driver’s seat to earn the favored fourth seed come March.
Looking past USF, the rest of the Broncos schedule is favorable. With five more games remaining in the regular season after Thursday’s contest, all but one are against sub-.500 squads. Except for the last game of the season, a Feb. 25 date at No. 20 Saint Mary’s College, the Broncos will be the favorite.
Still, no win is guaranteed. The Broncos must keep up the intensity both on the court and in practice if they want to continue to build on their encouraging season and be ready for postseason play.
“We are at a point where school is catching up to us and we are feeling tired from the grind of the season, so this is when we have to push it into the next gear,” Feagin said. “We have to push it ten times harder because it will feel that much better when we have that success towards the end of the season.”
As the home stretch of the season bears down, Coach Sendek has a simple message for his team: “I know it sounds vanilla, but we need to take advantage of every day and every opportunity, and get better on a broad-based front.”
The Broncos will travel to the University of Pacific to play the Tigers on Feb. 11 at 7 p.m.
Contact Bo Kendall at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.