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Gonzaga vs. Santa Clara game preview: Bulldogs aim to tame the horsies

Like most WCC opponents, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have had Santa Clara's number in recent years.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga will go for its 30th straight home victory over conference opponents when Jared Brownridge and the Santa Clara Broncos roll into Spokane on Saturday evening.

The Bulldogs are coming off of a 31-point victory over the San Francisco Dons on Thursday night. Kevin Pangos led the Bulldogs with 17 points, Przemek Karnowski chipped in 16 and Kyle Wiltjer added 15 of his own. It was the second straight high scoring game for Karnowski, who has 37 points in his past two games, shooting 16-of-22 from the floor and a perfect 1-for-1 from beyond the arc.

Santa Clara's recent effort wasn't a stellar one in a loss to the Portland Pilots. The Broncos combined a rough shooting night with a lackluster effort on defense in a 17-point loss. The Broncos also managed just 15 rebounds as a team in the game.

Meet the opponent

Santa Clara Broncos, 7-9, KenPom #185

Offense doesn't come easily for Kerry Keating's team. The Broncos average 61.5 points per game, good for No. 306 in the nation. Much of this issue stems from the fact that Santa Clara just isn't a very good shooting team. The Broncos have a team field-goal percentage of 41.9, good for No. 243 in the nation. Even Jared Brownridge hasn't proved immune from the shot issues plaguing the Broncos. Brownridge was stellar as a freshman last season, but this year has seen his shooting percentage drop to 42.3 percent. He can definitely still score (see 25 points against Washington State), but his shot has been even more off since hopping into conference play. In five WCC games, Brownridge is shooting 32 percent from the floor, 25 percent from beyond the arc and averaging just nine points per game.

He is joined in the backcourt by senior point guard Brandon Clark. Clark has had an even more harsh drop-off than Brownridge in his shooting percentages. Although, to start with Clark was never that good of a shooter. He has a career field goal percentage of 40.2 percent, and that is why he tries to finish at the rim as much as possible. Per, 35 percent of Clark's shots are at the rim, where he shoots 44.2 percent. The numbers plummet from there. 26.4 percent of his shots are jumpers, which he hits just 34.5 percent of. 38.6 percent of his shots are three point attempts, which he is hitting only 25.9 percent of this season.

There are a few bright spots in the future for the Broncos. Freshman forward Matt Hubbard is putting together decent numbers as the lone big man on a generally undersized team. Sophomore forward Nate Kratch has a knack for the offensive board -- 12 of his 28 rebounds to be exact.

The four factors

All stats are courtesy of Ken Pomeroy

Gonzaga Santa Clara
eFG% 58.1 (6) 47.7 (216)
TO% 16.7 (34) 18.4 (101)
OR% 37.4 (27) 28.4 (263)
FTR 35.6 (214) 33.2 (266)
Win index 98 2

What to watch out for

How much will the Gonzaga frontcourt score?

It is a recurring theme for WCC opponents. Few teams can match up the size to do anything against Karnowski, and then to exacerbate the issue, Wiltjer is there to stretch the floor and Domantas Sabonis hangs out to make the paint too intense. The Zags are getting some excellent production between their big men, and the issue is that there is no way to stop it. If Karnowski is having a slightly down night, Wiltjer is there to pick up the slack. If Wiltjer doesn't feel like taking 15 shots, Karnowski is there to bully his way around the paint. Santa Clara has no size to speak of, and with the way Karnowski is playing as of late, the Bulldogs would be smart to feed him constantly.

Who will step up for Santa Clara?

The Broncos offense is in shambles. Even if both Brownridge and Clark have career nights, Santa Clara would probably still lose in the end. The prime candidate throughout the season has been Hubbard. But at 6'9 and surrounded by the gigantic blockade that is the Gonzaga frontcourt, he is most likely neutralized.

There might be another 100 point game on our hands.

Santa Clara's defense is terrible. That is the short matter of the subject. The Broncos can't block worth anything, they hardly steal and they have some of the worst perimeter defense in the conference. This all adds up to teams having their way with the Broncos for much of the season. Realistically, there probably won't be an 100 point game as this is a conference opponent -- and those games are always a bit closer. But, Santa Clara's defense is ranked No. 256, and the gambling line sits at Gonzaga favored by 24-points. I'd take those odds.

Game info

Time: 5 p.m.



Radio: AM 1510 KGA (Spokane), AM 880 KIXI (Seattle), AM 1360 KUIK (Portland)