Tumultuous Season Concludes
Men’s basketball loses to Portland in WCC play-in
Published: Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 1, 2012 11:03
Down by two, Santa Clara point guard Evan Roquemore handled the ball at the top of the key with 20 seconds left in the play-in game of the Zappos.com West Coast Conference Championship, his eyes darting to read the defense. A three would have provided a breath of fresh air, keeping the Broncos' troublesome season alive. A two would grant Santa Clara a final chance to halt their 17-game losing streak in overtime. But neither hypothetical outcome meshed with reality.
Crossing the ball over, Roquemore slashed to the right. He stopped abruptly, looking to kick the ball out to a teammate. But it was too late. His shoe had already grazed the baseline; Santa Clara's only turnover of the entire game.
The Broncos' season officially came to a close with a 74-70 loss to the University of Portland Pilots. It was their 18th consecutive loss and 22nd overall, both school records.
Santa Clara and Portland came out determined to put points on the board. The score jumped to 12-12 only five minutes into the game. But the sharp-shooting by the Broncos was quick to disappear.
Portland jumped out to a seven point lead, 29-22, on a three by Kevin Bailey. But Roquemore drained a three, followed by Brandon Clark's steal and a finish by Harrison, cutting the lead to two with three minutes remaining in the first half.
The run would not hold up. Portland responded with a 10-6 run to close out the quarter, pushing the lead to six at 41-35 at the half.
Roquemore struggled out of the gates, making only two of his first 10 shots from the field. Combined with Clark's slow start, the point guards only connected on three of 15 shots in the first half.
"It comes down to making shots," said Head Coach Kerry Keating.
The second half opened with more of the same. A 12-5 run pushed Portland's lead to 13. Once again, Santa Clara refused to slip away. Two free throws by Clark later closed the margin to three.
"We showed a lot of fight to come back," said Keating.
With 20 seconds remaining, and the scoreboard reading 72-70, Clark drew a crucial offensive foul. Despite getting to the free-throw line on the past two possessions, Roquemore was unable to find an opening, resulting in the deciding turnover.
But attacking the rim sat well with the head coach
"It was a step of maturity for these guys," said Keating.
The Broncos, who began the year with an 8-4 record, including wins over previously ranked No. 21 New Mexico and Villanova, finished the season with an 8-22 record overall, 0-17 in conference.
Portland's big men caused problems for Santa Clara in the paint. The Pilots' Ryan Nicholas connected on 10-11 of his shots, posting a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
Roquemore added a team-high 21 points, thanks largely in part to his 11 free throw makes.
According to Keating, the team will now know "how hard it is when you don't put yourself in a position to win on and off the floor."
Contact Gabe Taylor at email@example.com or (408) 554-4852.