Gonzaga Holds Off Santa Clara 81-74
SANTA CLARA (CBS/AP) — Kelly Olynyk made a key putback with 1:55 remaining on the way to a career-high 33 points, and No. 10 Gonzaga held off a late rally to beat Santa Clara 81-74 on Saturday night for its sixth straight victory.
Elias Harris added 14 points for the Zags (15-1, 2-0 WCC), determined to win another West Coast Conference crown after Saint Mary’s snapped the school’s run of 11 straight won or shared conference titles.
Olynyk also had 10 rebounds, scored Gonzaga’s eight straight points late as the Zags shot 55 percent from the floor.
Kevin Foster scored 29 points and reached the 2,000 mark for his career and Marc Trasolini had 19 points and nine rebounds for Santa Clara (12-4, 1-1), which is off to the program’s best start since 1997-98.
After Trasolini’s dunk with 16:23 remaining pulled Santa Clara within 46-44, Olynyk scored four straight points and six of the Zags’ next eight as his team began to pull away before one last-ditch Santa Clara rally.
Gonzaga also shifted to a zone defense and caused the Broncos problems getting to the basket.
Foster had 17 of his points in the first half with two of his team’s six 3-pointers, then scored Santa Clara’s initial six points after halftime before struggling to create shots.
His jumper with 6:55 left cut Gonzaga’s lead to six, then Trasolini hit a pair of free throws the next time down the floor to make it 64-60.
But Gonzaga came through with the big plays down the stretch. Olynyk made a pair of free throws with 4:31 to go.
Santa Clara faced a top-10 opponent for the second time in exactly a week after losing 90-77 at No. 1 Duke on Dec. 29. The Broncos dropped to 9-3 at home.
The raucous, sold-out Leavey Center drew a standing-room only crowd of 4,907 — the largest attendance ever in the cozy arena.
Gonzaga grabbed the opening tipoff and Olynyk dunked just 4 seconds into the game, then the Zags came out in a full-court trap press.
The 7-foot, 238-pound Olynyk scored 17 points in the first half on 7-for-8 shooting, including six as Gonzaga used a 12-4 run over the final 5:35 to take a 41-34 lead at the break.
Olynyk was held to 4 of 8 shooting in a 78-62 win at Pepperdine on Thursday night.
With school still out for the holiday break until Monday and on-campus dormitories closed until Sunday, Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating did all he could to ensure a packed house — offering $100 hotel reimbursements from his own bank account to those students who live on campus but had nowhere to stay Saturday night.
A dozen students took advantage of the offer sharing four rooms, and there was no lack of spirit as is always the case when the Zags come to campus.
While Gonzaga swept both meetings last season, the Bulldogs had a nine-game winning streak in the series snapped with a 73-62 loss at Santa Clara’s home court on Jan. 20, 2011.
Santa Clara ended a 17-game losing streak against conference opponents by beating San Francisco 74-69 on Wednesday night. The Broncos were trying to win their first two conference games for the first time since 2003-04.
They connected on 3 of their first 5 3-pointers 5:34 into the game and limited Gonzaga to six shots in the opening 6:40. The Bulldogs held an 18-12 rebounding advantage and shot 55.6 percent in the first half.
Foster went just 2 for 12 from long range.
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