Men’s Basketball Pulls Away in Second Half, Downs Portland on the Road

Men’s Basketball Pulls Away in Second Half, Downs Portland on the Road

AUDIO: Sendek Postgame Interview on KDOW-AM 1220

PORTLAND, Ore. – Santa Clara men's basketball started got off to a solid start in Saturday's West Coast Conference road matchup with Portland and poured it on in the second half to pull away for a comfortable 85-61 victory.

Keshawn Justice posted 17 points, including 14 in the opening half, to lead five players in double figures for the Broncos who shot 53 percent from the floor, including 12 of 23 from behind the 3-point line.

Jaden Bediako had a career-high 13 points and nine rebounds, and Trey Wertz scored 11 and dished out nine assists for Santa Clara (18-6, 5-4), which went on an 18-3 run to build a 60-36 lead with 11 minutes left.

The Broncos nailed nine of their first 15 from the floor in the second half and pushed the lead to a game-high 28 with 9 minutes remaining in earning their ninth-straight win over the Pilots.

Isaiah White posted 15 points and Tahirou Diabate added 14 for the Pilots (9-15, 1-8) who were held to 40 percent shooting from the floor, including only 4 of 20 from behind the 3-point line, in losing their seventh-straight outing.

Justice shot 6 of 7 from the floor, including 5-for-6 from behind the 3-point line, and DJ Mitchell and Tahj Eaddy came off the bench to score 12 apiece for the Broncos who had 19 assists on 31 baskets and recorded 11 steals.

"I'm really proud of our guys effort again today," Santa Clara head coach Herb Sendek. "We continue to really make progress in learning how to play. The unselfishness and ball sharing has been just tremendous."

Santa Clara led 16-7 less than 7 minutes into the game and pushed the advantage to 12 with 5 minutes remaining in the opening half, but the Pilots scored seven straight to stop the bleeding.

Justice hit all five of his attempts from the floor, including four from behind the 3-point line, in the first half.

The Broncos nailed six of their final eight from the floor and carried a 36-28 lead into the locker room. They scored 14 straight points spanning the end of the first half through the first two minutes of the second to take control.

JoJo Walker had 12 points for the Pilots who committed 17 turnovers with 15 coming from their five starters.

Santa Clara overcame its second-worst performance at the free-throw line this season, making only 11 of 22. The 50 percent accuracy was eclipsed only by a 9-for-19 effort (47.4 percent) at Gonzaga on Jan. 16. The Broncos came into the game shooting 75.6 percent from the line, the second-best mark in the league.

• In a series that began in 1946, Santa Clara leads 67-33. It has been a series of streaks in recent years. The Broncos have captured the last nine meetings, which followed a three-game winning streak for Portland. Santa Clara has won seven of the last eight at Portland.
• The 24-point win was the most lopsided in a West Coast Conference game for the Broncos since a 106-55 victory over Pepperdine on Feb. 16, 2017.
• The Broncos (53 percent) connected on at least 50 percent from the field for the 10th time this year. They did it seven times all last season.
• Santa Clara's 11 steals were second most this year. The Broncos had a season-high 14 in the season opener against Santa Cruz (Nov. 5).
• The Broncos played without starting forward Guglielmo Caruso (lower right leg) for the ninth-straight game. The sophomore was injured against Alcorn State (Dec. 29) and was ruled out indefinitely.
• Santa Clara suffered another injury in Thursday's Gonzaga game, but that did not require time off the court. Trey Wertz broke his nose when teammate Keshawn Justice caught him with an elbow but the sophomore guard was able to don a mask and play 31 minutes against the Pilots. Along with his 11 points and nine rebounds, Wertz had two steals and just one turnover.
Josip Vrankic (eight points) had his streak of consecutive games scoring in double figures snapped at six. During the last seven games, Vrankic is averaging 18.0 points on 53.9 percent shooting (41 of 76) from the field and 6.9 rebounds.
• Vrankic picked up his fourth foul with 17:15 left in the game and the Broncos holding a 42-33 lead. Despite playing without their productive forward, they were able to extend that advantage by scoring 14 of the next 15 points in just more than 4 minutes of action.
• After scoring in single digits in the previous four games, DJ Mitchell has hit double figures in the last two. He has averaged a team-best 14.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in that span.

The Broncos will play at Pepperdine on Thursday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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