The West Coast Conference has been dominated by Gonzaga for over a decade, and they started off the 2013-2014 campaign with a vengeance in grabbing a win over Santa Clara on Saturday, 74-60.
In the first WCC game for both teams, the Zags used an aggressive approach to generate 31 free throw attempts (to just 12 from Santa Clara) and they took advantage with 23 makes to set the foundation for the win. Veteran guards David Stockton (21 points, 4 steals) and Kevin Pangos (17 points) led the way for Gonzaga on the offensive end, but it was their defense that “won” the game here, holding the visiting Broncos to just 60 points.
For Santa Clara, it isn’t a shock (obviously) to see them drop a road game against Gonzaga, but there were some encouraging takeaways. Guard Brandon Clark scored 22 points, matching up favorably with the high-profile backcourt of the highly-ranked Bulldogs, and they also played Gonzaga to draw (32-32) on the glass. Still, it wasn’t quite enough, and with the aforementioned free throw disparity, they were behind the 8-ball from the downbeat.
As the calendar turns to 2014, everyone expects Gonzaga to be in the thick of the WCC race and yet another NCAA Tournament berth, but every journey starts with a single step, and they had theirs in the conference on Saturday.