All ten WCC teams were in action Thursday night. We've got you covered on what went down out West in case you missed it, or were foolish enough to go to bed early.
Thursday’s WCC scores
Gonzaga Bulldogs (15-0, 3-0) 95, San Francisco Dons (11-5, 1-2) 80
Saint Mary’s Gaels (13-1, 3-0) 81, BYU Cougars (11-5, 2-1) 68
Santa Clara Broncos (8-8, 2-1) 70, Portland Pilots (9-6, 2-1) 42
Pacific Tigers (7-9, 1-2) 56, San Diego Toreros (7-8, 0-3) 53
Pepperdine Waves (5-10, 1-2) 71, Loyola Marymount Lions (7-7, 0-3) 70
Brownridge reaches a milestone as Broncos turn it around
Santa Clara’s Jared Brownridge (18.5 ppg) scored just eight points in the Broncos’ 70-42 home demolition of Portland, but those eight points pushed the senior past 2,000 for his career.
Brownridge came to campus in 2014 as the replacement for Kevin Foster, who amassed 2,422 points between 2008 and 2013. No other Broncos have reached the 2,000 point milestone.
It was a big night for the two-time all-WCC first teamer, and a big night for his team as well. Santa Clara was picked to finish fifth in the WCC preseason poll, but had limped to a sub-.500 record entering Thursday. The Broncos won just three of eight in November but have won five of eight since. Over the past four games especially, Santa Clara has been playing markedly better, particularly on the defensive end.
Those four games were the first four that they’ve had sophomore guard KJ Feagin (17 points, seven assists), who had been out with an injury. Junior Kai Healy came off the bench and was the game’s leading scorer with a career high 19 points. The Broncos will continue trending up if the defense holds and they keep getting points from people other than just Brownridge (the nation’s third leading active scorer).
The WCC won’t be a three team race after all
Saint Mary’s defeated BYU 81-68 at home, and in the process showed just how far off the pace the Cougars are in the race for the WCC title. Gonzaga (5) and Saint Mary’s (19) have spent the entire season ranked in the AP Top 25, while BYU has barely sniffed it.
However, improved three-point shooting and a pair of quality reinforcements — Corbin Kaufusi missed all of the non-conference slate while playing on the football team and 2015 CAA newcomer of the year Elijah Bryant missed ten straight games due to injury — gave reason to think the Cougars could make the jump.
But it turns out they’re not even close.
Saint Mary’s shot 55 percent from the field and scored 1.31 points per possession. Those numbers shouldn’t be a surprise for a team ranked eighth in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric (118.1). What is surprising, however, is that against a BYU team that ranks as the sixth fastest team in America (77.3 possessions per 40 minutes), the Gaels controlled the tempo perfectly. Thursday night’s clash took place over just 62 possessions. This is mind-numbingly slow for the Cougars, but exactly the Gaels’ season average.
Junior center Jock Landale (17.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg) tallied 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the Gaels. Another big game in the quietm yet all-America caliber season for the Aussie.
Gonzaga remains unbeaten on the season
Nigel Williams-Goss went 12-of-15 from the field en route to a career-high 36 point performance, and added 11 rebounds and six assists, to help the Zags win their 15th consecutive game. The Zags are one of just two unbeaten teams remaining in college basketball. Baylor (14-0) is the other.
While Williams-Goss was showing that the normally -balanced Zags have a player capable of taking over a game on the offensive end, the defense was making an equally important statement.
San Francisco came in ranked 17th in the nation with a three point percentage of 40.1 percent. Thursday night the Dons were 7-29 (24.1%) from long range. It wasn't an off-night either; Gonzaga's defense is simply elite. The Zags have held opponents to just 28 percent from long range this season (6th in the nation), and that’s a big reason they rank 15th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric.