Santa Clara Beats Gonzaga: Can the Broncos Capitalize on the Win?

Posted by Tom Schreier on January-21-2011 Add Comments

On Thursday, for the first time since 2001, Santa Clara defeated West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga. Their 85-71 win was the first for Keating, who is 1-8 against the Bulldogs, and means that the maligned coach has defeated every team in the WCC.

As expected, Kevin Foster used a late game three to drill the final nail in Gonzaga’s coffin.

“I was just full of excitement because I haven’t won against Gonzaga in three years,” said Foster, who hit a career high 36 points against the Zags.

Foster played a complete game. He had two aesthetically pleasing steals in key moments during the game while remaining disciplined.

His first foul came with 1:25 left in the game.

“It’s just a constant effort,” said Foster. “[Just] being solid on defense and not fouling because they need me on the court and I’m not going to be as valuable if I pick up cheap fouls.”

Forward Marc Trasolini, a junior who has played with Foster since his freshman year, was elaborate in his praise for his teammate.

“He really stepped up,” said the Canadian forward. “We needed him so badly and he just performed above everyone’s expectations and carried us on his shoulders tonight.”

Foster also received admiration from Gonzaga senior guard Steven Gray.

“When a guy has taken 20 threes in a game before they’re going to get the guy shots and they do a great job finding him and really setting screens on their guy,” said Gray. “You can definitely see that’s something they spend a lot of time on.”

Against USF the Broncos put up 37 threes and played soft inside. In a similar big-game atmosphere against Gonzaga, Santa Clara forced the ball inside and shot eight for 20 from beyond the arc.

“The biggest thing about that…is that he was 7-9 on the free throw line in the second half,” added Keating. “If you’re a shooter…and it’s not working out in the flow of the game you’ve got to get to the free throw line.”

Santa Clara, the first team in the country to make 300 free throws, got to the line 33 times against Gonzaga, shooting 12 more free throws than they did against USF.

“It’s about time,” said Keating in a press conference after the game. “We’ve had three really good games with them and had some unique circumstances in all three of them so we wanted to make sure we did everything we could do so that wouldn’t affect the game.”

The win may be a watershed moment for Bronco basketball.

“If you want to establish yourself in this league, Gonzaga has established you have to do it through them,” said Keating. “They’ve withstood the test of time and set the [bar]…and that bar is pretty high.

“[It’s] a good start knowing if you’re going to take a stab at it that you can beat them.”

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few appeared unfazed after the loss.

“We’ve had teams every year that have pressed us and pushed us and we’ve lost games,” said Few, whose team has been in the WCC Tournament final every year since 1999. “We’ve had several years when we’ve been fortunate enough to go undefeated [in the conference], but we’ve dropped games before so this is nothing different.”

Before this game there was no expectation to win against big-name programs. Keating’s teams had a reputation of losing momentous games in the last few minutes.

“We’re going through stages of the building process,” said Keating, who has yet to have a winning season in three years as the head coach as the Broncos.

“To build a program takes a long time at this level. With high academic restrictions and not as many resources as other teams, but we don’t make excuses for that. We get what we get and take pride in that. It takes time.”

The announced attendance of 4017, 500 under capacity, indicates that there was limited expectation that this team was going to win.

“There were a lot of students here,” said Keating, a nod to the packed Ruff Rider section. “Hopefully we can build on that so everyone here knows that even though Gonzaga only plays here once, we play here a lot more than that.”

Keating and the Broncos must build upon this win. If they run the conference they will enter the WCC Tournament with momentum and could potentially gain national recognition.

If they stumble to the finish the win will be passed off as a flash in the pan.

Tomorrow they get their next opportunity to prove themselves when Portland visits for a 3:00 p.m. matinee contest.

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