Santa Clara vs. Gonzaga – Game Recap – February 19, 2022

SPOKANE, Wash. — — It was senior night for top-ranked Gonzaga, and seniors Andrew Nembhard and Rasir Bolton helped deliver a hard-fought 81-69 win over Santa Clara on Saturday.

Nembhard scored 21 points, including a pair of late 3-pointers that froze him, and Bolton contributed 18 points.

“It was good for them to step in and make plays like that,” coach Mark Few said, adding that Nembhard “delivered a lot of time.”

Drew Timme had 23 points and nine rebounds and Gonzaga won his 10th straight West Coast Conference regular season title.

“It means even more this year,” Few said. “The league is the best since I’ve been here.”

With the WCC possibly sending four teams to the NCAA Tournament this year, “being undefeated is quite an accomplishment,” Few said.

Gonzaga (23-2, 12-0) won its 16th straight game and 67th straight game at home, a streak that dates back to 2018 and is the longest in the nation. The Zags are the current favorite for the NCAA Tournament seed.

Freshman Chet Holmgren added 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots for Gonzaga.

PJ Pipes scored 27 points and Jalen Williams 15 for Santa Clara (18-10, 8-5), which ranks third in the WCC. The team has been battling for first place in the Santa Clara postseason tournament since 2013.

“Pipes is playing really, really well,” Few said. “He hit a lot of hard shots.”

The 12-point winning margin was the lowest of the season in a WCC match for Gonzaga.

The games were tied at 18 with 10 minutes left in the first half. But the Zags broke out for a 20-4 run and Santa Clara missed 10 of 11 field goal attempts. Pipes then scored seven points to cut Gonzaga’s lead to 41-31 at halftime.

Santa Clara fell into single digits several times early in the second period, but the Bulldogs led 59-46 with 12 minutes left.

Pipes’ 3-pointer drew Santa Clara 59-53 with just under 10 minutes to play, but a 13-6 run from the Zags made it 72-59.

A pair of 3-pointers from Nembhard took Gonzaga to a 78-62 lead with just over two minutes remaining, and Santa Clara no longer threatened.

“We fought until the end,” Santa Clara coach Herb Sendek said. “It’s difficult to play against a team like Gonzaga but I couldn’t ask my guys for more.”

It was the last home game of the season for Gonzaga, which featured seniors Bolton, Nembhard, Matthew Lang and Will Graves.

PROS BACK

Former Gonzaga stars Kelly Olynyk, Killian Tillie and Jalen Suggs, who now play in the NBA, were at the game. “That’s what makes this place so special,” Few said. “It’s great that they want to come back.”

SHOOTING MISFORTUNE

Gonzaga has the highest field goal percentage in the nation, but the Zags only managed to shoot 40% against Santa Clara. The Broncos weren’t much better, hitting 41% of their shots.

CONSEQUENCES OF THE SURVEY

Gonzaga is expected to remain No. 1 next Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Santa Clara: The Broncos have lost 24 straight games to Gonzaga, dating back to 2011. … Four Broncos starters average double digits.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs have won 33 straight conference games since losing to BYU in 2020, the longest such streak in the nation. … Gonzaga leads the nation in points (89.9 ppg), field goal percentage (53.5%) and goal margin (25.5 ppg). … Since 2017, the Zags have spent 35 weeks ranked first in 110 AP polls. Duke is second at 18 weeks in that span.

FOLLOWING

Santa Clara: At Pepperdine next Thursday.

Gonzaga: ends the regular season at San Francisco on Thursday and at Saint Mary’s on Saturday.

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