The Gonzaga Bulldogs closed out 2017 in style, encountering zero resistance from Santa Clara in an emphatic 101-52 win. It was an appropriate exclamation point to a calendar year that saw the Zags reach new heights and make the program’s first national championship game appearance.
Seven Bulldogs scored in double figures (!!!) led by Silas Melson (19pts). He was joined by Zach Norvell (14), Josh Perkins (12), Rui Hachimura (11), Jeremy Jones (11), Jacob Larsen (10), and Corey Kispert (10). Emmanuel Ndumanya was the only Bronco to reach double figures with 12 points.
From the opening tipoff there was zero doubt as to whether or not Gonzaga would be challenged in this game. The Zags ran out to a 15-0 lead before the Broncos made their first basket more than five minutes into the game. Santa Clara is a team that doesn’t defend or score well, and it also plays at one of the slowest tempos in the country, so that opening 15 point deficit might as well have been 1000 points.
Gonzaga took advantage of the Broncos soft defense, frequently sneaking cutters for back door layups and dunks or raining threes from the perimeter. Santa Clara didn’t seem too interested in taking either option away, and the Zags closed the first half with a 52-25 lead thanks to 62.5% shooting from the field.
The Zags continued to pile on in the second half, with a 3-point barrage against Santa Clara’s soft zone serving as the preferred method of offense. While the shooting was hot, it was Rui Hachimura who took home the game’s top highlight with a posterizing dunk over some poor Santa Clara player who I can’t name now because Rui killed him.
It was fun to watch the Zags keep their foot on the pedal. Despite the ever growing lead as the game progressed, the defensive pressure never waned, forcing the Broncos into 21 turnovers that led to a lot of fastbreak points. Just about every Zag that saw the floor scored a basket with the exceptions of Jack Beach and Brian Pete. Jeremy Jones earned a new career high with 11 points (including a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line).
When the coaching staff breaks down this tape, there won’t be much to nitpick. Gonzaga moved the ball extremely well and assisted on 28 of 36 made baskets, dominated the boards (40 to 24), and kept the turnovers in single digits (7) for a second consecutive game. Hopefully the good times keep rolling when the calendar flips over to 2018.