No. 23 Gonzaga looks to maintain hold on Santa Clara
Gonzaga will look to continue its dominance of host Santa Clara when the two West Coast Conference programs square off on Thursday night.
The No. 23 Bulldogs have won the past 26 meetings and are a sparkling 46-4 against the Broncos during Mark Few's coaching tenure.
Few has a bigger milestone in sight. A win on Thursday would represent his 700th career victory.
Only legendary Adolph Rupp (700-136 in 836 games) will have reached 700 wins quicker. Thursday will be Few's 839th game as Gonzaga coach.
Few is deflecting attention from the milestone as he focuses on Santa Clara (11-6, 2-0). He was particularly pleased that the team's shaky 3-point shooting was a big strength as the Bulldogs (11-4, 2-0) won their first two conference games.
Gonzaga made 18 of 42 3-point shots in the blowout victories over Pepperdine and San Diego. The Bulldogs made 8 of 19 in last Thursday's 86-60 win over the host Waves before connecting on 10 of 23 in Saturday's 101-74 rout of the Toreros.
Nolan Hickman (7 of 13) and Ryan Nembhard (6 of 8) led the way from long distance in the two games. Nembhard was just 6 of 40 (15 percent) in non-conference play, and Hickman was 21 of 60 (35 percent).
"Make sure your confidence is not wavering," Hickman said after making three treys against San Diego. "Understand that you are a shooter at this program. ... When you're open, let it fly and be confident. That's a huge key."
Hickman scored 17 points against the Toreros and was only Gonzaga's fourth-leading scorer. Ben Gregg scored a career-high 22 points off the bench, Graham Ike had 19 points and eight rebounds, and Nembhard was 4 of 5 from behind the arc while recording 18 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals.
Gregg added seven rebounds and four steals in his stellar effort.
"That's what he does. That's who Ben Gregg is," Few said. "We're lucky to have him. He does buy in, and he understands how important it is for him to do that."
The visit to Santa Clara's will be just the second true road game of the season for the Zags. They lost to Washington 78-73 on Dec. 9.
But Gonzaga typically doesn't have any problems with the Broncos and has won 11 straight and 22 of its last 23 trips to Santa Clara. The Broncos last beat Gonzaga 85-71 on Jan. 20, 2011.
Santa Clara opened WCC play with road victories over Loyola Marymount (68-57 last Thursday) and Pepperdine (78-72 on Saturday).
It marks the first 2-0 start in WCC play for the Broncos since the 2003-04 seasons, when they started 3-0.
The start is a bit of a surprise as Santa Clara lost star freshman Brandin Podziemski to the NBA after last season. Podziemski was the 19th overall pick in the draft by the Golden State Warriors, one year after Jalen Williams was the 12th overall selection by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Prior to Williams' selection, Santa Clara hadn't had a player selected in the NBA draft since legendary Steve Nash in 1996.
Stepping up has been Arizona transfer Adama-Alpha Bal, who has six 20-point efforts and is averaging a team-high 15.9 points. He scored a career-high 28 points against Pepperdine.
Carlos Marshall Jr. averages 14.2 points. Marshall had just 12 against Pepperdine, but assistant coach Scott Garson gushed about Marshall's contributions against the Waves.
"His defense, he was just awesome," Garson said. "That's a real tribute to Carlos.
"Just because he didn't have it going to where he scored 25 points or had six 3s, he was awesome on the defensive end, and we don't come close to winning without what he did for us."
--Field Level Media
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