Santa Clara Broncos Fall To No. 17 Saint Mary’s Gaels in WCC Tourney Semifinals

The Santa Clara Broncos (21-11) fall to their arch-rival, the No. 17 Saint Mary’s Gaels (25-6), 75-72, in the WCC Tournament semifinals inside the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A trip to the WCC tournament championship game, a chance to almost guarantee a NIT bid at worst case, a potential trip to the NCAA Tournament all on the line against the program’s biggest rival. Mental toughness disappeared from the Broncos with so much at stake in the biggest game of the season and the biggest game for the program since the 2007 WCC Tournament Championship game.

Saint Mary’s is a very good team that punched the Broncos in the mouth. The offense flinched and the defense was nearly non-existent for the first 35 minutes of the game.

Santa Clara didn’t have any answers for Tommy Kuhse, who scored a game-high 27 points on 11-of-18 from the field with four assists and played all 40 minutes.

Josip Vrankic and Keshawn Justice led SCU with both scoring 21 points respectively.

Vrankic is SCU’s best player and he only attempted four field goals in the first half and 13 for the game. He needs to be getting at minimum 15 field goal attempts every game.

Vrankic and Justice were the horse’s that got the Broncos back in the game after trailing by 15-points in the second half.

SCU had a chance to take the lead, trailing 73-72 with 14 seconds left. Herb Sendek decided to not call his final timeout, which I was more than fine with. My issue was not getting the ball in one of the horse’s hands (Justice and Vrankic) that got you to that point in the game. Logan Johnson blocked Jalen Williams’ shot with 5 seconds remaining.

Tough play, but you have to give Johnson credit for making a huge play for the Gaels.

I’ll give Santa Clara credit for battling back when it looked like they were dead. But at the end of the day, the Broncos have no one to blame but themselves for this loss. When you go 15-for-23 (65.2%) at the free throw line, make 11-of-27 (40.7%) layups, when your defense fails to show up for the first three quarters of the game and allows eight offensive rebounds that turned into second chance points for the Gaels, you add all that together and that’s how you lose games.

It’s just a disappointing performance in a winnable game. I may or may not be eating a huge bowl of ice cream while I write this.

Injuries and illnesses to Santa Clara at the end of November and in December drastically changed their season. Had they been (relatively) healthy all season, I truly believe you’d be hearing their name called on Sunday, even with this loss, as an at-large team.

The Broncos deserve to at least be in the NIT and I really believe they have a legitimate chance to make a run at the NIT title. It will be a travesty for college basketball if SCU is not a team selected in the NIT.

Up Next:

The Broncos will have to wait and see if they’re selected in the NIT, or reduced to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) or The Basketball Classic (formerly named the Collegeinsider.com Tournament/CIT)

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