By Jake Curtis, The Sports Xchange
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Kelly Olynyk poured in a career-high 33 points to help No. 10 Gonzaga hold off Santa Clara, 81-74, in a West Coast Conference game Saturday at the Leavey Center.
Gonzaga (15-1, 2-0) won despite a 29-point performance from Santa Clara's Kevin Foster.
Even though Santa Clara (12-4, 1-1) had gone winless in the conference last season, Gonzaga knew it had a challenge on its hands from the Broncos.
Santa Clara had given Duke a stiff test on the road last month, and Foster, who had scored 36 points in a victory over Gonzaga two years ago, was back after missing much of last season following a suspension for driving under the influence.
Plus, the Broncos had the support of 4,907 fans, the largest crowd ever at the Leavey Center.
But Gonzaga had too much inside firepower for Santa Clara. Olynyk was 12-for-15 from the field and added 10 rebounds, forward Elias Harris had 14 points for the Bulldogs, while Marc Trasolini added 19 points for the Broncos.
Foster, already Santa Clara's all-time leading scorer, surpassed 2,000 points for his career with his 23rd point of the evening, which came with 18:24 left in the game and cut a seven-point halftime deficit to two.
The Broncos closed the gap to one point on Brandon Clark's three-point shot with 13:22 to go, but Olynyk scored from close range, Sam Dower scored on a fast break, and David Stockton hit a layup. That gave Gonzaga a seven-point lead at the 11:44 mark, and it became a nine-point lead when Dower scored again from close range.
Gary Bell Jr. finished off the 10-0 run with a bucket to make it a 62-51 game at the 10:33 mark.
The Broncos cut the lead to 64-60 with 6:24 left and stayed close down the stretch.
A follow shot by Olynyk at the 1:55 mark provided Gonzaga with a 74-68 advantage. Olynyk, whose previous career high was 22 points, added two clutch free throws with 52 seconds left to make it an eight point game.
Santa Clara guard Kevin Foster and Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk each scored 17 points in the first half, and it was the Bulldogs' superiority on the interior that helped them take a 41-34 lead at halftime. Besides Olynyk's work on the inside, forward Elias Harris contributed 11 first-half points for the Bulldogs by maneuvering in the paint.
Santa Clara relies heavily on three-point shooting, and half of its 28 field-goal attempts in the first half were three-pointers. The Broncos made six of them, accounting for 18 of their 34 first-half points.
A traditional three-point play by Foster resulting from a drive through the lane gave the Broncos a 30-29 lead with 5:36 left before halftime. But the Bulldogs reeled off eight straight points, including four by Olynyk, to take a 37-30 lead at the 3:09 mark.
Two Olynyk free throws with 38.7 seconds left gave the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the half at 41-33.
NOTES: Gonzaga's next game is Thursday at home against St. Mary's, which has developed into quite a rivalry with the Bulldogs. Last season, St. Mary's ended Gonzaga's run of 11 straight regular-season conference championships . ... Santa Clara, which went winless in West Coast Conference play last season, ended a 17-game losing streak against conference foes when it beat San Francisco on Wednesday in its WCC opener. Santa Clara has not been 2-0 in the conference since 2003-2004. ... Saturday's game was a sellout, the Broncos' sixth home sellout since Kerry Keating became head coach. ... Gonzaga's Mike Hart made just his fourth start of the season on Saturday. ... Gonzaga entered Saturday's game shooting 51.3 percent from the field, third best in the country. The Bulldogs' 42.4 percent shooting in Thursday's victory over Pepperdine was a season low. ... Gonzaga has hit at least one three-pointer in 642 straight games. ... With its victory over Pepperdine, Gonzaga has won 17 straight conference openers. ... Kevin Pangos is the only player to start each of the Bulldogs' first 15 games. ... Santa Clara is the only Division I team in the country with three 1,000-point scorers on its current roster -- Evan Roquemore, Marc Trasolini and Foster. Foster is Santa Clara's all-time leading scorer and needed 23 points coming into Saturday's game to reach the 2,000-point plateau. ... Gonzaga had won 12 of the past 13 games against Santa Clara before Saturday. ... Santa Clara came into Saturday's game leading the WCC in both fewest turnovers committed and most opponents' forced turnovers.