It didn’t quite reach the heights of the 49-point blowout in Spokane three weeks ago, but the Gonzaga Bulldogs still secured a comfortable 75-60 win on the road to take both of its regular season games against the Santa Clara Broncos.
Santa Clara’s KJ Feagin led all scorers with 21 points, but he didn’t get much help as the only other Bronco to reach double figures was senior guard Henry Caruso (11 points). Josh Perkins led the way for Gonzaga with 17 points (6-7 FG). Zach Norvell (7-9 FG) and Rui Hachimura (6-16) each scored 16 points while Killian Tillie chipped in with 12.
Coming off a disappointing loss, the hope was that the Zags would respond with a strong statement game to get back to winning ways. The winning resumed, which can never be complained about, but the statement was a little less emphatic than Gonzaga’s coaching staff was probably looking for.
Gonzaga’s offense responded to its less-than-stellar finish in the Saint Mary’s game with a bit better execution to open the game, hitting the Broncos early and often with pick-and-rolls that turned into easy baskets. However, the long-distance shooting woes continued as the Zags went 3-9 for the arc in the first half.
The defense eased its way into the game, but grew more stout as the contest wore on with the highlight being a stifling possession that forced Santa Clara into a shot clock violation. To their credit, the Broncos were able to score in the paint with greater success than they did in Spokane three weeks ago and matched Gonzaga’s paint scoring (18) after the first half.
Perkins rebounded from Thursday’s game with a strong performance, and Hachimura continued to terrorize WCC defenses as the pair teamed up to score 23 points in the first half. But with just a 7-point lead at the break, Gonzaga needed more from its backcourt as Melson and Norvell combined for only 4 points in the first half.
As has been his trend, Norvell’s second half was much more active as he scored 10 points in the first seven minutes of the period while crashing the glass and helping Perkins facilitate the offense. Melson, however, picked up his fourth foul just five minutes into the second half which landed him on the bench and prevented him from contributing in a meaningful way.
The Zags could have used Melson on the floor too, with KJ Feagin proving to be a handful to defend. In Melson’s absence, Gonzaga threw a variety of defensive coverages at Feagin with mixed success, and the constant switches left the Zags with some unfavorable matchups and broken plays.
Gonzaga eventually figured things out and reeled off a 12-0 run midway through the second half to pull away from the pesky Broncos. All of the damage from that run came inside the paint or at the free throw line, which will have to be the formula for success until the Zags find their shooting shoes.
The Bulldogs will be back in action on Thursday in Portland.