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Gonzaga looks like 'one of the best' in routing Santa Clara

The SportsXchange

SPOKANE, Wash. -- The first time Gonzaga played Santa Clara this season, Broncos coach Kerry Keating essentially paid fans to come out and watch.

The second time Gonzaga played Santa Clara this season, Keating should have paid the Bulldogs for putting on a clinic at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

"They played great and made us look really pedestrian," Keating said after the third-ranked Bulldogs crushed Santa Clara, 85-42. "They're obviously one of the best teams in the country."

Gonzaga raced to leads of 15-2, 22-5 and 40-11 before "settling" for a 44-15 lead at the half. Last month, the Broncos played Gonzaga tough in an 81-74 loss, when Keating paid hotel bills for Santa Clara students who returned to campus from the holiday break before the dorms re-opened.

Gonzaga's starters sat out much of the second half Wednesday, but the Bulldogs still finished with a 45-22 edge in rebounding and a 50-16 advantage in points in the paint. The Zags shot 56.9 percent from the field and held Santa Clara to 30.2 percent.

"Outstanding effort by our guys," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "Probably the best I've ever seen in this building as far as our defense and rebounding and heck, even our offensive execution.

"Got no complaints there. Just a total game."

Elias Harris led Gonzaga with 17 points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes. Front-court partner Kelly Olynyk added 14 points and seven rebounds in just 18 minutes.

"If Kelly's not the best player in the country, he's second best behind (Indiana guard Victor) Oladipo," Keating said. "Our big guys are doing a heck of a job playing together," Gonzaga senior guard Mike Hart said.

No one will ever confuse Hart with a national player of the year candidate, but the former walk-on continues to draw raves for his hustling play at both ends of the floor. Hart shut down Santa Clara star Kevin Foster and racked up six points, seven rebounds and two steals while earning repeated ovations from the sellout crowd of 6,000.

"He's one of a kind," teammate Gary Bell Jr. said. "He's the ultimate Zag."

"He's what every coach wants to have on their team, no matter what level you're at," Keating said. "He relishes his role."

Few couldn't agree more with Keating.

"He's amazing," Few said. "He's the ultimate effort guy and the ultimate scrapper and tough as they come."

Brandon Clark led Santa Clara with 14 points. Marc Trosolini was next with just eight points. Hart helped limit Foster, Santa Clara's all-time leading scorer, to four points on 2-for-10 shooting.

"He basically took Kevin out of the game right from the start," Keating said. "The first play of the game (when Hart was fiercely defending Foster), he didn't care if he was going to get a foul.

"He was going to tell Kevin, 'This is how it's going to be. You have to deal with it.'

"Any coach that doesn't want that guy on his team is a fool."

The Bulldogs, riding their second nine-game winning streak of the season, improved to 26-2 overall and 13-0 in the West Coast Conference.

"That's one of the best performances I've been a part of in this gym or anywhere," Hart said.

The Broncos, who had won two in a row and seven of nine, slipped to 19-9 and 7-6. Santa Clara's points and margin of defeat were the worst of the season.

Gonzaga owns the best record in NCAA Division I heading into Saturday's home game against San Diego.

NOTES: Few's career winning percentage of .800 (368-92) leads active NCAA Division I men's basketball coaches with at least five years of experience. Few had no varsity head coaching experience at any level before he was elevated from assistant coach to head at Gonzaga 14 years ago. ... Jerry Krause, Gonzaga's director of basketball operations, said the Bulldogs have finalized a home-and-home contract with Arizona. Gonzaga plays in Tucson in 2014-15, and the Wildcats come to Spokane the following year. ... Hart and redshirt juniors Olynyk and Drew Barham have earned degrees and are pursuing Master's degrees at Gonzaga. ... Jim Fitzgerald, a former Gonzaga baseball player and the nephew of longtime Gonzaga basketball coach Dan Fitzgerald, attended his first game at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Dan, who died in 2010, had a bitter parting of ways with Gonzaga and never entered the building after it was built in 2004.
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