A nice four-game win streak should help the Gonzaga Bulldogs head into the road trip as they take on the Santa Clara Broncos at 8 p.m. PT on Wednesday.
Now that we are officially at the halfway point of WCC play, each one of these little things can start with what happened in the last matchup. For Gonzaga, not a lot of good things happened. Gary Bell broke his hand. Sam Dower missed the game with a destroyed back and Kevin Pangos played through the pain with his injured toe.
As to be expected with that Walking Dead synopsis, the Broncos held around against the Bulldogs a lot longer than anyone gave them credit for. Since then, things haven't gone too well for Santa Clara. They are currently mired in a four-game losing streak. The season has faded fast for them, but as is the case when Gonzaga comes to the home court, expect the best shot.
Meet the opponent
Santa Clara Broncos (12-12), Kenpom #184, RPI #204
In their first matchup, the Bulldogs contained half of the Broncos' offense. Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark are too very capable scorers. Clark went off for 22 points in the first meeting, but Brownridge was limited to 12 points. Outside of a seven point blip effort against Pacific, Brownridge is averaging 24 points per game since losing to Gonzaga. He has been especially hot as of late, notching 30 points against BYU and San Francisco in his last two games. He took a total of 21 three point shots in those two games, so it looks like the dog is off his leash.
One of the big differences in the last game was the injuries to the Gonzaga team. Things are different now. Sam Dower has been on a tear and will give Santa Clara yet another big man to defend against. They aren't the tallest team, and forwards Yannick Atanga and Jerry Brown will have their hands full. Both players were aggressive on the glass in the last meeting and helped Santa Clara only get outrebounded 28-26.
What to watch out for
Dower has been incredible over the past four games and will need to keep that momentum going. He'll have an easier time down low so that shouldn't be a problem. One of the nicer things about the BYU win was Kevin Pangos 24 points. It was the first time he eclipsed 20 points since the win over Arkansas on Nov. 25. Bell is close to being fully healthy (in my mind) at this point, but Pangos is still the leader of this team. He was 6-of-10 from three point range against BYU, busting out of his mini-slump where he was 5-of-21 in his previous four games.
Most importantly for the Bulldogs, this game begins the absolutely lousy portion of the WCC scheduling. For whatever reason, the WCC gave Gonzaga six of its first nine games at home. We'll finish out with the inverse, six of the last nine conference games on the road. All of the big hurdles at home have been taken care of, but every single big hurdle on the road remains. Gonzaga needs to take care of business in each one, and can't look past any one opponent. As we all know and saw live against Portland, Gonzaga brings out the best in teams. Often times, those teams don't bring out the best in Gonzaga. Even with Memphis looming next week, the most important thing is to get through the weekend unscathed.