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WCC Thursday Recap: Three thoughts from Thursday night’s action

The Cougars, Zags and Broncos all won on a light, three game night out west.

NCAA Basketball: Santa Clara at Gonzaga
Santa Clara’s Tahj Eaddy (2) is a name to know going forward.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Didn’t stay up late to catch the three West Coast Conference games last night? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with the scores and three key takeaways from the night that was out west.

Scores

Portland Pilots 56 - BYU Cougars 79
Pacific Tigers 36 - No. 5 Gonzaga Bulldogs 67
Pepperdine Waves 64 - Santa Clara Broncos 67

Tahj Eaddy: a Star in the Making

Santa Clara (10-7, 2-1) got back to it’s winning ways against Pepperdine (8-9, 1-2) thanks in large part to a massive performance from sophomore guard Tahj Eaddy.

The Southeast Missouri State transfer scored 28 points on 10-15 shooting (4-5 from three) with an offensive rating of 161. What’s wild is that not one of those numbers is a career high. He dropped 30 on San Diego just a week ago.

Eaddy averaged 7.5 points per game in his freshman year at Southeast Missouri State two seasons ago as a reserve-turned-starter.

At Santa Clara, he’s turned into a do-it-all guard who is averaging 16.3 points and 3.8 assists per game and scoring efficiently, both inside the arc and out. This season he’s been used on about a quarter of the Broncos’ offensive possessions. But as head coach Herb Sendek has seen his depth dwindle due to injury, he’s had to rely more and more on Eaddy. Through three games in WCC play, Eaddy is being used on about a third of the Broncos’ possessions.

It’s a perfect storm situation for the sophomore, who is being relied on more than ever and delivering as well as anyone could have hoped.

Gonzaga Takes Pride in the Press

Defense was a real issue for the Zags (15-2, 2-0) even before stud perimeter defender Geno Crandall went down with a broken hand at the end of November. But once he went down, defense became a major liability for the already shorthanded Zags. Over the first two weeks of December, the Zags gave up over 1.1 points per possession in all four of their games.

Since then, things have changed.

Thursday against Pacific (10-8, 0-3) was the culmination of nearly a month’s worth of work. Crandall is back, and Killian Tillie is in the fold now as well, but it’s not just the addition of two key players.

“It’s a point of emphasis for us,” Crandall said after the game, “and just a pride thing. Taking pride in stopping somebody. We can score almost at will so I think a lot of times it’s going to come down for us to get stops as well.”

Gonzaga held Pacific under 20 points at halftime and below 40 for the game. This was the third time in the past five games that the Zags have held their opponent below 20 points in the first half. Since giving up 1.23 points per possession to North Carolina on December 15, the Zags have held teams under 1.00 point per possession in each of their six games — giving up 0.77 to Cal State Bakersfield is the Zags’ worst defensive performance in that stretch.

Against Pacific the Zags ran a 1-2-2, three-quarter court press on 17 possessions, a full one-quarter of Gonzaga’s total number of defensive possessions in the game. Pacific scored just nine points against and committed seven of the team’s 22 turnovers against the press.

Hard Times, a Hand and Jahshire Hardnett

The Cougars (10-8, 2-1 WCC) have been through a lot this season. First it was Nick Emery’s nine-game suspension to start the season. Then it was punishment from the NCAA that vacated 47 wins. After that came the losses, three at a time, and often by embarrassing margins.

Now, it’s something to do with junior guard Jahshire Hardnett (10.9 ppg). Last week Hardnett was moved from the starting lineup to the bench off the bench, and then played just five minutes against Saint Mary’s. On Monday, Vanquish the Foe reported that Hardnett, who ranks third on the team in scoring, would be leaving the program as a mid-season transfer.

Apparently that isn’t happening. But, Hardnett didn’t play tonight anyway.

Strange that the news of the injury only made it’s way out after the game. It’s yet another piece of drama for a Cougars squad that’s been through plenty already. Thursday though, it didn’t seem to matter. BYU handled Portland (7-10, 0-2) with ease.