The Gonzaga Bulldogs turned in one of their best performances of the entire season, completely dismantling the Santa Clara Broncos, 98-39, on Thursday. It is the third-highest margin of victory in school history.
The win was the 27th-straight conference win on the road for the Zags, setting a new NCAA record.
It is hard to gauge against the lesser competition of the WCC, but Gonzaga was borderline impeccable in this game. It was difficult to come up with what was more impressive, how easily the offense hummed throughout the entire conference, or how suffocating the defense was to take Santa Clara out of the game almost immediately.
The Zags opened up the night with a 14-0 run, holding Santa Clara without a point for the first five minutes of the game. Throughout each possession, the Broncos best look at the hoop was an off-kilter runner defended tightly by a Gonzaga player. The Zags took a 53-17 lead into halftime, holding the Broncos to 29.2 percent from the floor. Through the first 20 minutes of the game, the Zags didn’t have a single turnover.
With a lead like that, it was never going to be much of a contest. Santa Clara couldn’t even slow down the Zags’ offense, let alone stop it. Gonzaga finished with 21 assists on 36 field goals, and finished with a grand total of two turnovers (a new school record).
If you look at the stats, this was as perfect of a game as the Zags could’ve hoped for. Gonzaga outscored Santa Clara 48-18 in the paint, often times, doing it so easily it was borderline rude.
Josh Perkins came out firing, having one of his best games in a Gonzaga uniform. Perkins finished with a team-high 18 points, doling out eight assists, and finishing with zero turnovers.
Back to the defense, which was the key to getting it all started. In the first half, the Zags forced three shot-clock violations and drew three charges. In total, Gonzaga scored 26 points off of turnovers. For Zag fans looking deeper into March, these are the sorts of performances we need to see in the WCC. Gonzaga has now held two conference opponents to under 40 points, and excluding San Francisco, WCC opponents are averaging only 48.8 points against the Zags.
Again, it is hard to to get too encouraged considering the gulf in talent between Gonzaga and Santa Clara, but top teams are supposed to look this good against an overwhelmed competition. Playing with the offensive fluidity and the defensive intensity as the Zags did tonight, they can just about beat anyone.
The Zags get a break this weekend with a bye and face the BYU Cougars in Provo next Thursday.