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Gonzaga vs. Santa Clara: Zags hope for an easier win this time around

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The first conference game against Santa Clara didn't exactly go as planned.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are 7-2 after their first run through WCC competition, and the second half of the conference slog begins on Thursday with a game against the Jared Brownridge and Co. in Spokane.

Of course, last time around was the first conference game that started to show dark things on the horizon. Gonzaga just couldn't shake the Santa Clara Broncos until the waning minutes. It was also the first breakout game from Josh Perkins on the season, as the young point guard scored 26 points to lead all Gonzaga players.

On the flipside, Jared Brownridge led the Broncos with 26 points, and most importantly demonstrated his annoying penchant for hitting three pointers, draining six in the game.

Meet the opponent

Santa Clara Broncos, 7-14, KenPom #256

Not much has changed for the Broncos since last time around. They are still one of the slowest paced teams in the nation and they still have Jared Brownridge scoring bucket loads of points. If anything, the Zags are hitting the Broncos at the right time. They are coming off back-to-back losses against Loyola Marymount and San Francisco at home, and Brownridge is almost somewhat mortal. He hit 20 points in both of those games, but in the previous three, he averaged just 13 points.

Gonzaga still needs to keep track of Brownridge and guard KJ Feagin, however. Feagin scored 15 against Gonzaga, and then followed that up with 25 points against Portland. He is capable of big games, and is a perfectly capable outside shooter as well, taking exactly 1/3 of his shots from three-point range.

What to watch out for

Can both bigs get it going again?

For a while, the issues involving this team were pretty apparent. But the threat of a short bench never seemed to be too panic inducing because both Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer were playing out of their minds. Against Portland, The two combined for 60 points and looked like they were going to coast GU through the WCC.

Who knows what is going on, fatigue perhaps? Whatever it is, the dynamic Gonzaga duo has been a lot less dynamic as of late, and the two have struggled to both rev the engine. Against BYU, KW had 35 and DS had 5 points. Against San Diego, it was a more respectable 25 for KW and 14 for DS. Against Saint Mary's it was 17 for DS and just six for KW, and against Pacific it was almost back to normal with 23 from KW and 12 from DS.

Fact of the matter is that this team only has so many players who can score, and so any time either Sabonis or Wiltjer struggles with his shot makes it a much harder game for the Gonzaga offense. Santa Clara is at a pretty serious height disadvantage, and it would be great to watch Gonzaga exploit that.

Can we get some rest for the starters.

Against Pacific, the Zags basically ran out a six-man rotation. All starters except for Eric McClellan logged 30 minutes or more and Silas Melson chipped in 24. Sure, Bryan Alberts and Ryan Edwards tallied eight and seven minutes respectively, but the writing has been on the wall for quite a while. This team runs quite the tight rotation. Fatigue is one of the questions that has circled around these here blog parts, and rightfully so. The Zags have six players averaging 20 or more minutes, and pretty much four starters averaging 30 or more minutes.

Basketball is a long haul, and it would be nice to see Mark Few find moments, no matter how small they might be, to try and get some rest for some of these guys.