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Zags hang on to beat Santa Clara

Junior college transfer Marquise Carter has been gradually improving since conference play began.  At the end of January, Carter's minutes began to increase exponentially and tonight, it was a game of career highs for Marquise.  In a game and career high 38 minutes played, Marquise made the most of his time and led Gonzaga to 85-76 win over the Broncos of Santa Clara.  Carter's night included a career high 20 points on 6-9 shooting (2-3 from distance).  He also added five assists to the stat sheet.  Carter was joined in double figures by senior Steven Gray and forward Elias Harris as the Zags gathered their eighth conference win.

Gonzaga ran out to a couple of leads in this one and it felt like a rout was in the works.  By their own faults, and with some decent play by Santa Clara, the Broncos were able to close the gap each time but couldn't string enough positive plays together to pull off the upset on the road.  After ten minutes of the first half, the Bulldogs had built a 15 point lead and were truly firing on all cylinders.  It took Santa Clara (read: Kevin Foster) all of twenty-one seconds is disassemble it.  Foster converted a four-point play after Steven Gray foulded him on a made three point shot, he proceeded to hit another three, and the benefited from an Elias Harris turnover and cashed in another deep ball.  That was about the highlight of the evening for the Broncos as they were able to keep it close throughout the first half and well into the second half before the Zags were able to distance themselves from their opponent. 

read on after the jump for more...

As I said in the opening, Gonzaga got off to a quick start but it probably wasn't the way in which most would expect.  The Zags' first 14 points came from either Steven Gray, Meech Goodson, or Marquise Carter.  It wasn't until the 12-minute mark when Sam Dower gave the froncourt their first made field goal.  The backcourt was firing on all cylinders.  Mark Few plugged in David Stockton in the middle of the half and he provided instant offense and even Mathis Monninghof came in and drilled a three.  The game was flipped on its head when Kevin Foster poured in 10 points in 21 seconds.  The momentum swing was something that Gonzaga was not expecting and things began to spiral out of control in the moments directly after Foster's explosion.  The Zags turned the ball over a couple times and the outward attack really cooled off. 

The staff even seemed to get flustered midway through the first half as the substitution pattern began to get a bit out of sorts.  Mike Hart played extended minutes in the first half that were largely uneventful.  Hart, who picks up most of his minutes in garbage time, was 0-3 from the floor.  He was apparently sent out to provide Gonzaga with a larger defensive presence on Kevin Foster while a quicker, lengthier, and similarly sized Mangisto Arop registered yet another DNP-Coaches Decision.  Kelly Olynyk started out very slowly but picked things up once he connected from the outside and Sam Dower once again came in and provided instant offense.  Foul trouble also made things a bit more difficult as both Elias Harris and Steven Gray sat for extended periods of time in this one.  Harris picked up three in a hurry and Gray picked up his fourth in the second half which sent him to the bench.

While it wasn't the prettiest of efforts at the McCarthey Athletic Center, this was one of the better offensive outputs from the Bulldogs in recent past.  Their 54% mark from the field was their highest since the Portland game in late January and it is a vast improvement from the 38% mark they had been averaging in the past three games.  Next up for the Zags will be the Dons of San Francisco for what should be another tough conference game.  The Dons are tied with the Zags for second at 8-3 in the conference and will be riding high after their huge victory tonight over Portland at the Chiles Center.