Jared Brownridge leads Santa Clara to biggest win in years
THE SANTA CLARA
February 2, 2017
When Santa Clara traveled to Brigham Young University in late December, they were trounced in a 30-point loss, but in Thursday’s rematch the Broncos made a big statement.
From the opening whistle, Santa Clara was absolutely lethal with the deep ball, tying a season-high with 14 three-pointers—Jared Brownridge, Nate Kratch and KJ Feagin had four each. Anytime BYU managed to go on a run, the Broncos would respond.
Brownridge was the focal point of the offense, per usual, working hard to come off screens and eventually finished with a game-high 25 points. Santa Clara held the lead for almost the entire game and never relinquished it late.
Sophomore forward Eric Mika and first-year guard TJ Haws were the only effective Cougars’ starters, finishing with 22 and 15 points respectively. The game was always just out of reach for BYU, as Santa Clara’s three-point shooting proved too much to overcome.
The euphoria of the impressive win against the third-ranked team in the West Coast Conference was short-lived, as the Broncos faced a massive challenge on Saturday against St. Mary’s College. The Gaels, ranked 21st in the nation, came to Leavey with only two losses on the season. As expected, the Gaels proved to be too much for Santa Clara to handle.
The Gaels simply lulled the Broncos to sleep with their balanced, half-court offense and made life hard on Jared Brownridge. He struggled to get open and make his contested shots all game, converting only three of 14 field goal attempts.
The Broncos refused to roll over and managed to pull close a few times thanks to a strong performance from Kratch, who finished with 19 points. St. Mary’s looked to be in complete control from the start, but Santa Clara got a few stops and hit some big shots at the end of the first half, to pull the score to 35-30. The Broncos did not get any closer for the rest of the game.
WCC standout center Jock Landale of St. Mary’s was a dominant force in the paint. Landale finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds and made sure the game was never in doubt, as the Gaels closed it out 72-59.
“I think we played with good effort and I think we tried to play the right way,” Coach Herb Sendek said. “We didn’t make enough plays to win the game but I wasn’t displeased with our effort.”
The Broncos stagnant offense is predicated on hitting outside shots and waiting for Brownridge to get open from off the ball screens. And if Brownridge doesn’t make his shots, the Broncos struggle mightily. Yet, they have managed to scrape out some wins, including Thursday’s huge win against BYU, and find themselves sitting in fourth place in the WCC.
“I think we continue to improve and when you look back at the season, our team has evolved a great deal,” Sendek said. “We’ve had to recalibrate almost on a weekly basis due to injuries so they are a very resilient group and have overcome a litany of health issues.”
Next up, the Broncos hit the road to take on the University of Portland, losers of eight straight games, followed by the hardest game Santa Clara will play all year. On Saturday, Feb. 4, Santa Clara travels to Spokane to take on their rivals, the Gonzaga University Bulldogs, who were named the No. 1 team in the nation in the most updated rankings.
Still, Santa Clara has a good opportunity to finish the season as the No. 4 team in the WCC going into the conference tournament.
The majority of their remaining games are against the bottom tier teams in the conference. But come tournament time, the Broncos will only go as far as Brownridge can take them.
Contact Ben Epstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.