Gonzaga-Santa Clara Preview
By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating has made sure his team will have a true home-court advantage against Gonzaga on Saturday night.
Though the Broncos are off to a strong start, they'll likely need more than an energetic crowd to help end their recent struggles against the No. 10 Bulldogs in this West Coast Conference matchup.
Gonzaga (14-1, 1-0) has won three straight in the series and averaged 80.7 points on 50.5 percent shooting while winning 25 of 27 over Santa Clara by an average 12.8 points. The Broncos' latest victory over the Bulldogs came at home, 85-71 on Jan. 20, 2011 - their only win in the last 12 regular-season meetings at the Leavey Center.
Santa Clara (12-3, 1-0), however, is off to the school's best start since the 1997-98 team opened 14-3, and snapped an 18-game skid against league opponents with a 74-69 win over San Francisco on Wednesday.
"I'm proud we are 1-0 and on to the next one, and probably the toughest one of the year because (Gonzaga) is playing really well," Keating said. "They are the gold standard.
"We are going to give them a game."
For that to happen, Keating knows the Leavey Center must be packed. The game is sold out, thanks in part to Keating footing the bill for up to $100 per room so students who live on campus can spend Saturday night in a local hotel. The school's dorms do not open for the upcoming quarter until Sunday.
"I'm excited to get the students back, we need them all here," Keating said. "We need all their energy."
Gonzaga has won five straight since losing 85-74 to then-No. 13 Illinois at home Dec. 8, but shot a season-low 43.4 percent during Thursday's 78-62 win at Pepperdine. The Bulldogs held a four-point halftime lead despite shooting 37.1 percent and 3 for 11 from 3-point range.
"We had some strange-looking plays at the start of it," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "I think we had two or three blooper-like plays. But basically Pepperdine was just outhustling us. They were more physical than us, which is rare. We've been a physical team all year."
Elias Harris had 18 points while Kelly Olynyk added 16 as the Bulldogs outscored the Waves 48-36 in the second half. David Stockton provided a spark off the bench with nine points, four steals and three assists.
"That's my goal on the court - to help the team in any way possible and stay on that spark," said the son of former NBA and Gonzaga star John Stockton, who failed to score in five of the previous seven contests.
The 7-foot Olynyk has averaged 19.3 points over his last three games. Backup big man Sam Dower has totaled 31 while averaging 15.3 minutes in the last seven but combined for 35 and 13 rebounds in two games versus Santa Clara last season.
Broncos guard Kevin Foster (19.1 points per game) has totaled 50 points in the last two games, including 29 on 12-of-22 shooting in a 90-77 loss at top-ranked Duke last Saturday. He averaged 25.0 points in his previous four games versus Gonzaga before being held to nine in an 80-62 loss in Spokane on Jan. 7.
Foster, who missed a 73-62 home loss to the Bulldogs on Feb. 16 while sitting the final 12 games last season for a DUI suspension, had a career-high 36 points in Santa Clara's most recent win over Gonzaga.
Teammate Marc Trasolini is averaging 15.7 points and 7.8 rebounds after missing 2011-12 with an ACL injury.
Updated January 4, 2013