Gonzaga game shows Broncos still have long way to reclaim past glory
The Santa Clara
January 25, 2018
The famed Santa Clara v. Gonzaga University Men’s Basketball game has turned a different cheek in the past couple years. What used to be a rivalry has (d)evolved into a David vs. Goliath scenario, with Goliath usually winning in front of a stadium full of disappointed fans. Yet, the Santa Clara community still considers the No. 2 team in the West Coast Conference our close “rivals.”
Santa Clara has not won a WCC championship since 1997. On the other hand, Gonzaga has yet to lose the league title since 2001. While Santa Clara showed some fight on the court during the game on Jan. 20, our basketball program is in an entirely different (and lower) class than Gonzaga’s.
We are an above average team in a subpar conference—nothing more.
Santa Clara had the home court rocking during the first 30 minutes of the game. Our Broncos kept pace with Gonzaga, never falling behind more than ten or twelve points. For a program of our caliber, keeping pace with the number 13 team in the nation is no small feat. The feeling around Leavey Center was that Santa Clara might just have a chance to top the WCC’s top dog.
KJ Feagin was the standout player in the game with 21 points, but he did not have much help from anyone else on the team. Santa Clara’s offense mostly consists of passing the ball around the perimeter, and when the shot clock winds down, a bad outside shot. This does not bode well against a proven defensive team in Gonzaga, as Santa Clara shot 10 percent worse from the field, on six fewer shots in the game.
The second half was a rude awakening for Santa Clara. Athleticism and experience favored Gonzaga, and ultimately those were the factors that allowed them to pull away for the eventual 15 point victory.
One of the biggest flaws in Santa Clara’s offense that ended up sealing their fate was their offensive game. The guards in Feagin and Hauser seemed to be incredibly reluctant to pass the ball inside, or drive the ball inside themselves. When the ball was passed or driven inside, the result was usually a bucket or a foul called in Santa Clara’s favor.
Additionally, there was a lack of ball movement overall. The team looks to their key players to score and the defense knows this. Therefore, the ball is placed in their hands and rarely circulates through other players.
Another flaw in Santa Clara’s offense was the play by the front court players. Santa Clara’s front court starters Josip Vrankic and Emmanuel Ndumanya combined for two of nine from the field, an embarrassing level of production. In conclusion, Santa Clara had a sliver of hope for the first half of the game, but as the game progressed, the superior talent gave Gonzaga the clear edge.
So what will it take for Santa Clara to earn the right to call Gonzaga a rival again? For starters: recruiting, recruiting, recruiting.
Santa Clara’s realistic goal should be to consistently rank third in the WCC. Santa Clara has the resources and enough talent to sweep the likes of the University of San Francisco, the University of San Diego and anyone that is not Brigham Young University, Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga. Once Santa Clara can establish themselves as the third best team in the WCC, then they can set their sights on greater goals.
Jack Benjamin, play-by-play basketball commentator for 103.3 KSCU (Santa Clara University’s radio station), gave his insight on how Santa Clara can go about improving their program.
“When you’re talking about this particular group, so many things have to go right to beat a team like [Gonzaga],” Benjamin said. “The athleticism for [Gonzaga] is just so much higher for them. We’re hoping our recruiting class coming in can match that, but if you want to win a game like this you have to win all the secondary areas. Gonzaga dominated every one of those categories. If you want to beat a team like Gonzaga you gotta make threes. We only made five threes tonight … When teams make less than ten threes against Gonzaga under Mark Few, they win maybe one percent of the time.”
Spencer McLaughlin, color commentator for KSCU, shared his thoughts as to a realistic timeframe for Santa Clara’s improvement.
“I think it’s tough especially with college basketball,” McLaughlin said. “If you lose two guys that’s 40 percent of your roster. You gotta give Herb Sendek time. He’s a proven coach. I think he is capable of getting us back to the tournament one day, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Within the next three to four years you can start to see us become competitive with the upper echelon of the
WCC. It’s all about recruiting. If you get the right guys I can see us being up there with the better teams in the conference.”
McLaughlin then detailed how, and if, Santa Clara can become an athletics-first school.
“That type of branding takes a long time,” McLaughlin said. “That makes it tough on Santa Clara as they don’t have the established brands that some other schools have already set in stone. The first thing you’ll see, however, when Santa Clara is on the rise to the top of the WCC is that they’ll have a signature win. That is what they need to put them on the map to let recruits know ‘Hey, we got something going here, come and join the party.’”
Santa Clara has a long way to go until they can regain the form they had when Steve Nash was leading the team in the mid-90’s. The biggest factor in this improvement will be the recruiting class. Santa Clara has found the coach they can invest in with Herb Sendek, and the Bronco faithful can keep their hopes cautiously high, knowing that Santa Clara may be on the slow and steady track to basketball prowess.
Contact Alex Stewart at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.