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Gonzaga vs. Santa Clara 2017 game preview: Zags back on the road

The Bulldogs dream season continues against the Santa Clara Broncos on Thursday.

NCAA Basketball: USA TODAY Sports-Archive Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Can’t stop, won’t stop. That appears to be the Gonzaga Bulldogs motto of this season. After a dominating performance over the Saint Mary’s Gaels, the Zags are off to California to take on the Santa Clara Broncos.

Gonzaga dealt a huge blow to Saint Mary’s in a 79-56 shellacking of the Gaels, reminding everyone in the conference that the Bulldogs are still the top team to beat. It was one of the best defensive performances of the season for the Zags, and the offense was uber efficient in downing the Gaels.

Santa Clara has had a nice opening to conference play, sitting at 4-2. The Broncos barely squeaked by San Diego on the road, but then bounced back with a solid win over Pepperdine, led in large part by Jared Brownridge’s 30 points.

Meet the opponent

Santa Clara Broncos, 10-9, KenPom #156

First off, this time around, the Broncos are more than Brownridge. Although, the offense still begins and ends with Brownridge, but sophomores KJ Feagin and Matt Hauser have stepped into upgraded roles nicely. Top it off with 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds from Nate Kratch and there you have the majority of the Santa Clara offense.

Unfortunately, for the Broncos, that offense isn’t generally enough to muster a whole lot of wins. Santa Clara plays at an absolute snails pace, their tempo is ranked No. 344 in the nation, but the offense doesn’t take good enough shots to generally keep with it when things get out of hand. As a team, the Broncos shoot just 42.8 percent from the floor.

The Broncos are still a dangerous team, however, because Brownridge is the most dangerous player in the WCC. He just dropped 30 points against Pepperdine, he scored 25 points in a loss to Arizona, and 36 points in a loss to Vanderbilt. Brownridge is an extremely hot or cold player (he scored a mere five points in a loss to LMU), but if he is hitting his shots he will carry the Broncos to the very end of regulation.

What to watch out for

Don’t do the Broncos any favors, keep them off the free throw line.

Also known as don’t make dumb fouls, because Santa Clara is sure as hell not going to punish the Zags for it. Santa Clara has one of the worst free throw attempts/field goal attempt ratios on the planet. Much of this is because Santa Clara attempts more three point field goals than is good for health. Either way, they don’t tend to get a lot of free points, and the Zags will have a much easier time winning if they keep it that way.

Is Josh Perkins going to be better?

If internet chatter is to be believed, Perkins has been dealing with lower back issues (spasms) for the past couple of weeks. Regardless of the extent of his injury, the fact of the matter is Perkins missed a large portion of the game against Saint Mary’s. It will be interesting to watch his usage in this game and against Portland, because the Zags are embarking on a nasty three games in six days stretch thanks to the freezing rainout in Portland earlier this month.

Speaking of which, we might see some of the bench players a bit more.

Three games in six days is a lot, especially when that involves traveling to California, back to Spokane, and then to Portland. If Perkins is going to need a slight minute reduction to help heal, we should see a lot more action from Bryan Alberts and Rui Hachimura, as well as more minutes from Silas Melson.

Game info

  • Time: 8:00 pm PT
  • Radio: Gonzaga IMG Network
  • Online: WatchESPN