SAN JOSE -- Santa Clara University’s lead in the second half never dipped below 16 as the Broncos cruised to their ninth win in the last 11 meetings against SJSU, defeating the Spartans 75-54 and ending their three-game win streak.
Twice the Broncos’ second-half lead was cut to 16 by the Spartans but the Broncos were just too much as they outscored SJSU in both halves Tuesday night at the Event Center.
“They outplayed us, simple as that,” said SJSU head coach George Nessman. “They showed more poise and showed more mental sharpness than we did and that’s how they got the victory.”
Santa Clara was led by guard Evan Roquemore, who racked up 16 points and 5 assists while converting 3-5 from beyond the arc, and also received substantial contributions from several members of the team. Broncos guards Raymond Cowells III and Kevin Foster added 13 and 11 points, respectively, to help earn the Santa Clara victory.
For the game, SJSU collectively shot 25 percent (15-60) from the floor. Guard James Kinney, who entered the contest averaging 23 points per game, was limited by the Santa Clara defense, scoring just 19 points.
“We had to keep Kinney somewhat limited, make him earn it and he had to earn those I thought,” said Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating. “He made some really tough shots. We started to frustrate them a little bit and disrupt their flow and it really helped our pressure in other places as well.”
Nessman called the loss a lesson learned for the Spartans.
“We played a really good team and we didn’t play with a level of concentration that you need to,” he said. “We certainly had a lot of intensity but we didn’t do a good job focusing. We made a lot of careless mistakes and Santa Clara punished us for almost every one of them.”
While Santa Clara outscored SJSU 17-14 in points off turnovers both Nessman and Kinney said it felt like the spread was larger. Ten of SJSU’s 18 turnovers came in the first half, digging a hole the Spartans wouldn’t be able to climb out of.
“They counted on our mistakes, that’s pretty much the game right there,” Kinney said. “We didn’t execute offensively. We broke down on many of our sets and that leads to bad shots, poor decisions overall and transition points for Santa Clara going the other way.”
Santa Clara began to build a lead from the early minutes of the first half. Within the first five minutes the Broncos took a 14-5 lead and it became clear that Santa Clara was the more aggressive team.
SJSU’s defensive intensity showed promise later in the first half when it held Santa Clara scoreless for nearly four minutes, bringing the score to 16-12 in favor of the Broncos with 11:14 left in the first half.
A three-pointer from guard Brandon Clark, however, ignited the Santa Clara offense once again and sent the Broncos on a run that opened the game up early on. Over the next five minutes Santa Clara went on a 15-2 run, capped by a three-pointer from Roquemore, to give the Broncos a 31-14 lead with just less than seven minutes to play in the first.
Another 13-4 Bronco run to end the first sent the game into halftime with the score at 44-25. Roquemore led Santa Clara in scoring with 13 points and in assists with 3 at halftime.
“We didn’t function very well the first ten minutes of the game and that put us in a hole and then we played like we were in a hole and I think it affected out sharpness and Santa Clara took advantage of it,” Nessman said. “It wasn’t an effort issue, they were just playing a higher quality basketball in the first half and I think that’s why they got the lead they got.”
Nessman added that the team will now be able to take its time on the practice court and improve on many things — the team’s next game is not until Dec. 22 against James Madison.
“We need the time, clearly,” he said. “We’ve played a lot of games int he last two weeks and we’re a little worn down. We need to get back to the practice floor where we can have extended practices over a four day stretch where we don’t have to worry about an opponent. We have a lot of time now to focus on San Jose State and what we need to do.”