Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Santa Clara at Walt McPherson Court Wednesday night

This ought to do it -- it's a rivalry game, an intra-county contest between visiting Santa Clara and host San Jose State Wednesday night at Walt McPherson Court.

If that isn't enough to light a fire, it will be your last chance to witness/boo giant John Bryant, the senior Santa Clara center.

Speaking of Bryant, he has shorn himself of his perm and now sports a much more trimmed down hairstyle. In fact, Bryant has also shed 30 or so pounds from his frame to increase his stamina but that doesn't mean his picks won't be as substantial or painful. He's actually putting up better numbers this season (19 ppg., 10.8 rpg., 10 blocks in five games, shooting .667% from the field and on the court for almost three quarters of each game -- 29 minutes on average). So although we actually thought of it there's no valid Samson-like comparison to employ for the West Coast Conference (WCC) pre-season player of the year pick.

But maybe Chris Oakes and C.J. Webster can still play the Delilah role Wednesday night.

Former UCLA assistant Kerry Keating is back for his second season as the Bronco head coach. He's minus graduating seniors Brody Angley and Spartan thorn-in-the-side Mitch Henke at the point and wing respectively but brought in a heralded batch of recruits. As an aside, this group would have been even better had Paul George keep his commitment to Santa Clara. George first gave his word to Keating but then switched to Pepperdine prior to the signing period and eventually put his name on a letter-of-intent for Steve Cleveland and Fresno State.

Keating's initial Bronco team won 15 games last season and finished fourth in the WCC.


With personnel changes and the like firmly in mind, from The-For-What-It's-Worth-Department: these two teams played twice last season, first at Walt McPherson Court and the rematch at The Leavey Center. Let's go with the Spartan victory first:

Monday, January 7, 2008, @ Santa Clara

San Jose State handles Santa Clara 62-59

It was a grudge rematch and quite the different game in many ways than the earlier one on December 8 between San Jose State and Santa Clara. First and foremost was that San Jose State won this one 62-59 meaning each team won a 'road' victory this season in the long series between the schools.

The Spartans 'handled' abundant John Bryant, keeping him in check for most of the game and preventing any sort of domination inside from the Bronco inside force. In this game, SJSU big C.J. Webster himself proved to be a headache to the opposition racking up 12 points and 11 rebounds for another double-double on the season.

The point differential closed early in the second half and the Broncos actually took the lead, 44-43. Santa Clara was getting better looks and the Spartans had some turnovers combined with cooler shooting. SJSU regained the lead 47-46 on Justin Graham's 12-foot jumper and a basket by Webster upped it to 49-46. Jamon Hill added two free throws and Tim Pierce nailed a three making the score 54-48 with 3:48 remaining.

Graham's pair of free throws bumped the lead to 58-51 and the Broncos then made it close but couldn't overtake San Jose State.

San Jose State shot well and, equally importantly, defended smartly, holding Santa Clara to 40% shooting from the floor, a miserable 7-26 on three point attempts. The game earlier at The Event Center was a 73-63 Bronco win (higher scoring) with Santa Clara shooting 54.2% overall and 58.3% (7-12) on three point shots. That's quite the defensive adjustment and improvement. Point Brody Angley had 15 points for Coach Kerry Keating's team on December 8 but just seven tonight.

Pierce led the Spartans with 16 points (5-6 overall, 4-5 on threes), followed by DaShawn Wright's 13. Besides Webster's aforementioned 12, Graham made it to double figures with 10.

Bryant just missed a double-double of his own with 15 points and nine boards but he took 12 shots to get his point total.

At the half, it was 32-25 San Jose State. The Spartans were led by Wright with 11 points, followed by Pierce and Webster with 8 apiece. Remarkably, the young SJSU bunch chalked up but three turnovers after the first 20 minutes. A Pierce three made the score 15-11, a trey by Jamon Hill upped it to 18-11 and Wright gave the Spartans their biggest lead, 25-14, with another three-pointer.

But Bryant asserted himself with a couple of baskets and the Broncos began cutting the lead. He finished with six points at the half.


Tim Pierce 5-6 2-2 16; DaShawn Wright 6-8 0-0 13; C.J. Webster 6-16 0-0 12; Justin Graham 2-7 6-7 10; Jamon Hill 1-6 2-2 5; Chris Oakes 2-9 0-0 4; Oliver Caballero 1-3 0-0 2; Lance Holloway 0-0 0-0 0; Mac Peterson 0-0 0-0 0; Devonte Thomas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-55 10-11


Henke, Mitch 6-13 2-2 17; Bryant, John 6-12 3-5 15; Gunderson, Jonathan 4-8 0-0 11; Dowdell, Ben 3-7 3-5 9; Angley, Brody 3-10 0-0 7; Mbanugo, Okechukwu 0-0 0-0 0; Latimer, Cedric 0-1 0-0 0; Zimmermann, Andrew 0-1 0-0 0; Tiedeman, Zac 0-0 0-0 0; Johnson, Calvin 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 22-55 8-12 59.

San Jose State....32 30 - 62
Santa Clara..........25 34 - 59

3-point goals: San Jose State 6-9 (Pierce 4-5; Hill 1-2; Wright 1-1; Graham 0-1), Santa Clara 7-26 (Gunderson 3-7; Henke 3-8; Angley 1-7; Latimer 0-1; Johnson 0-3)
Fouled out: San Jose State-None, Santa Clara-None
Rebounds: San Jose State 35 (Webster 11), Santa Clara 32 (Henke 10)
Assists: San Jose State 12 (Graham 5), Santa Clara 15 (Angley 5; Henke 5)
Total fouls: San Jose State 13, Santa Clara 14


Saturday, December 8, 2007, @ Walt McPherson Court

It's Santa Clara 73-63

It was a case of too much JB tonight at The Event Center but it wasn't anything to do with the bourbon whiskey kind. No, it was Santa Clara's man mountain John Bryant who was just too large for the Spartans to handle as he led the Broncos to a 73-63 win.

San Jose State trailed throughout [due to mechanical difficulties we came in with the score 20-12 in favor of the Broncos] but tightened the contest towards the end. However, the Spartans just couldn't close the gap to a single possession for the remainder of the game.

Santa Clara led only 33-29 after the first 20 minutes, with Tim Pierce leading SJSU with 10 points. C.J. Webster had nine and Justin Graham added six.

In the early minutes of the second half, Bronco Mitch Henke hit a pair of three-pointers and added a turnaround basket in the lane. He was matched by the DeVonte Thomas/C.J. Webster Show as the two collaborated on passes for a Thomas layup, a Webster drop-step layup, followed by a Thomas dunk. That basket made it 41-35 in favor of the Broncos.

At the 14 minute mark, Webster was whistled for his third foul. Santa Clara then extended its lead to 51-37 at the 11:59 mark.

A Graham three-pointer made it 54-44 with 8:35 remaining. The lead stayed a similar differential even though Pierce turned en fuego and nailed a trifecta of three-pointers.

With 1:45 left, Bronco point Brody Angley stole the ball and went in for a layup but it was blocked from behind by Graham. DaShawn Wright followed with a foul shot and a Thomas steal led to a Graham layup, tightening the game to 68-63 in favor of Santa Clara.

But it was missed Spartan shots after that and a Bronco parade to the foul line until the buzzer sounded.

Pierce led San Jose State with 19 points on 5-10 shooting [4-9 from long distance], Graham added 13 and Webster 12, along with five assists. For the Broncos, Bryant finished with a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds.

For the game, the Broncos corraled 28 boards to 26 for the Spartans. Santa Clara continued its season long hot shooting, nailing 54.2% from the floor.

NOTES: The Spartans were missing center Oliver Caballero and guard Mac Peterson due to injuries ... At times, it was a case of pick your poison for SJSU as double-teaming Bryant led to open three-point attempts by his teammates ... Santa Clara was quite adept at freeing its big men for open layup attempts using back screens down low ... this was yet another game where Chris Oakes could have made a difference but he was fulfilling his six-game sitout after transferring from Pepperdine.


Here's what the Broncos have accomplished to date in 2008 -- it's been a diet of road games for a team breaking in a number of new players:

*** 11/17/08 64-61 loss vs. UAB
*** 11/18/08 65-61 loss vs. Florida Atlantic
Both of the above games were played in Tucson as part of a tournament.

*** 11/24/08 54-48 loss vs. Georgia
*** 11/25/08 69-66 loss vs. Arizona
Both the these above games were played in Athens, GA as part of a tourney

*** 11/30/08 71-68 win at Montana


It's difficult to pinpoint but here's the projected Bronco starting five:

6-11 senior John Bryant
6-7 sophomore Ben Dowdell
6-5 sophomore Michael Santos
6-1 freshman Troy Alexander
6-2 freshman Kevin Foster

6-4 senior Calvin Johnson has started each game to date in the backcourt but remains in a shooting slump that began last year ... Frosh starting point Troy Alexander is really struggling with his shooting but has compiled 16 assists versus 12 turnovers to date ... Freshman James Rahon, noted as a long-range shooter in the prep ranks, is tied with fellow frosh Kevin Foster at second in scoring on the team with 9.4 ppg. ...Another newcomer, frosh Marc Trasolini has been Bryant's backup in the middle ... As a team, the Broncos are shooting a solid 47%, albeit greatly aided by Bryant making two thirds of his attempts ... Santa Clara is nailing 31% on three pointers and averaging 60 points a contest.


Here's the complete Santa Clara roster, listed alphabetically :

Troy Alexander Guard 6-1/180 FR
Phillip Bach Guard 6-4/195 FR
John Bryant Center 6-11/275 SR
Ben Dowdell Forward 6-7/215 SO
Kevin Foster Guard 6-2/210 FR
Calvin Johnson Guard 6-2/200 SR
Nate Mensah Guard 6-3/190 SO
Perry Petty Guard 6-0/175 JR
James Rahon Guard 6-4/195 FR
Michael Santos Guard 6-5/195 SO
Scott Thompson Forward/Center 7-0/245 RS FR
Marc Trasolini Forward 6-9/235 FR
Decensae White Forward 6-6/225 JR

So the Broncos are inexperienced but with a player in Bryant who can 'correct' a lot of mistakes.


As for the Spartans, Adrian Oliver is still sidelined per NCAA requirements. He'll make his debut against Northern Colorado on December 20.

Here is an assortment of San Jose State numbers, with a caveat that it's simply too early to tell us much.

*** Tim Pierce is shooting much better overall at .447% and also doing yeoman-like work on the boards. A better than 14-25 at foul line is need though.

*** Chris Oakes is doing well with shotblocks at 10 but needs a more even ration of assists to turnovers than his current 4/11.

*** Newcomer Robert Owens is shooting .474% overall and an even better .500 on his threes.

*** Mac Peterson needs to even out his one assist to eight turnovers ratio.

*** DaShawn Wright has picked up right where he left off last season and is leading the team with nine steals.

*** As a team, the Spartans need to upgrade their .288% shooting on three point attempts and the .597% at the foul line.

*** C.J. Webster's ankle should be in much better shape with the time off he's enjoyed.

Both Santa Clara and San Jose State are averaging 60 points a game. We're not necessarily appropriately translating that into the expectations of a close contest with both teams finishing at or around this point level Wednesday evening.

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