Nigel Williams-Goss tweaked his ankle twice in Thursday’s win against BYU. Mark Few gave him the night off and things looked a little iffy for Gonzaga early against Santa Clara. Gonzaga started slowly and lost their “never behind” streak when the Broncos went up 5-4. Eight minutes later, thanks to hitting 4 of 5 from deep, the Broncos were up 16-12. Fouls, turnovers, shot-clock violations, Karnowki, Matthews and Perkins ensured the Santa Clara lead wouldn’t last.
The slow start was understandable, a tough game on Thursday and the loss of one of your point guards. Gonzaga righted the ship by pounding the ball down low to Karnowski and Collins causing the Santa Clara bigs, Ndumanya and Jadersten to end the half with 3 and 4 fouls respectively. Josh Perkins got adjusted to running the point by himself and had 4 first half assists and two deep threes including one at the buzzer to give the Zags a 37-23 halftime lead.
Following the familiar pattern of WCC home games, the Broncos couldn’t keep up their good shooting nor intensity as GU pulled further and further away in the 2nd half. Jordan Mathews seemed to regain his touch from deep and led GU in scoring with 16 points to go along with 4 assists. Josh Perkins added 15 to go with his 8 assists. He was 3-6 from deep and unfortunately had one disallowed after coming in from out of bounds. Zach Collins added 14 and Karnowski 12 before fouling out on a couple of questionable calls.
With 6 other top 10 teams losing today, Gonzaga’s claim as the #1 team in the nation and the probability of an NCAA Tournament 1-seed has gotten stronger. Iowa St beat Kansas at Kansas and Florida beat Kentucky, two teams the Zags beat in Orlando.
The most impressive part of tonight’s game is how well the team played without their arguably best player Nigel Williams-Goss. After 10 minutes of adjustment, Santa Clara had no answer for Gonzaga’s bigs and were stifled by Gonzaga’s defense. Jared Brownridge couldn’t break free all night and was blanketed by Silas Melson, Bryan Alberts and even Killian Tillie at the end. Remember, the Broncos beat BYU 10 days ago.
Gonzaga travels to Los Angeles to take on LMU on Thursday but it’s Saturday’s game at Moraga that’s in the forefront of most fan’s minds. ESPN game day will cover the event in what may be the biggest stumbling block to a perfect Gonzaga regular season