No. 17 Gonzaga defeats Santa Clara 81-73
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP)—Gonzaga was helped by Santa Clara’s crowd more than the Broncos were.
Josh Heytvelt scored a career-high 29 points and Matt Bouldin added 23, helping the 17th-ranked Bulldogs in an 81-73 victory Thursday night that kept them undefeated in the West Coast Conference.
The Bulldogs (22-5, 13-0) beat Santa Clara for the fifth straight time and the 18th time in the past 19 meetings and two technical fouls against the home crowd after objects were thrown on the court made a big difference.
“That was unfortunate,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “You have to do something, too. I think the (plastic) bottle hit one of our players the first time. … It’s too bad. There’s no place for it in college basketball or professional basketball or any sports.”
Freshman guard Kevin Foster led Santa Clara (14-16, 6-7) with 20 points, while center John Bryant and James Rahon both had 16.
The Bulldogs have won five straight games and 14 of 15, the only blemish a loss at home to No. 5 Memphis.
The game was tied 56-56 with 7:50 to play. Gonzaga went on an 11-2 run that started with a three-point play by Heytvelt. Two of Gonzaga’s points during the run came on two free throws by Bouldin when Santa Clara was hit with a technical foul after fans threw objects on the court, protesting a foul call.
Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating implored to crowd to refrain from throwing objects, but later in the game, his team was hit with another technical when another object was thrown from the stands. Bouldin made two more free throws.
“That’s not fair to our guys,” Keating said of the fan or fans who threw the objects. “It’s not fair to everyone in the gym who’s there to watch a game in a great environment.
“Whoever it was, I hope they understand that they hurt our team tonight.”
Gonzaga needs only a win Saturday at San Diego to finish the regular season undefeated for an unprecedented third time since the WCC went to its current eight-team alignment in 1980-81.
Last week, Gonzaga clinched the regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, earning byes to the semifinals.
Gonzaga trailed 53-50 with 11:10 left, surged to a 56-53 lead then watched Santa Clara tie it 56-56 with 7:50 left on Rahon’s three-point play.
Gonzaga scored six quick points and Heytvelt then scored on a putback of his own miss and drew a foul from Ben Dowdell. That’s when the crowd erupted, and a plastic bottle sailed toward the court, near Gonzaga’s players.
Bouldin made both shots on the technical and Heytvelt completed his three-point play, putting Gonzaga ahead 67-58 with 4:36 left.
The 6-foot-11 Heytvelt was coming off a career-high 28 points last week in a victory over Pepperdine. He entered Thursday night’s game averaging a team-best 15 points and 6.8 rebounds.
“I’ve got to give credit to the perimeter players,” Heytvelt said of his consecutive career highs. “I’m not doing a whole lot different. They’re just finding me in good situations. Things come pretty easily when they do that.”
In the first meeting this season, Gonzaga crushed Santa Clara 95-53, as Austin Daye scored 20 points and five Bulldogs scored in double figures. This time, the Broncos gave Gonzaga a scare.
“That was a great road win for us,” Few said. “I think Santa Clara played great. We had to really withstand quite an arsenal from their guards and big John (Bryant). We were very efficient down the stretch.”
After missing Santa Clara’s game against San Francisco with a shoulder injury, Rahon returned in a reserve role.