Santa Clara needs a win in a big way.
The Broncos (12-6, 1-3 WCC) have lost three straight games since winning its West Coast Conference opener against San Francisco and are quickly seeing their hopes for the NCAA Tournament slip away.
Santa Clara’s defense has not been as effective since West Coast Conference play began. The Broncos have allowed their opponents to shoot better than 50 percent from the field through four conference games.
For the season, they were allowing teams to shoot 42 percent.
To be fair, two of these games were against Gonzaga and BYU, which are the superior teams, but that is an incredibly high percentage for a team hoping to finish in the top four of the league.
Maybe it’s a good thing they see San Francisco (7-10, 0-4) again on Thursday.
Or maybe not.
The Dons nearly erased all of a 19-point lead Santa Clara had built up in the first half, mainly behind the efforts of Cole Dickerson and Cody Doolin.
Doolin is one of the more underrated guards in the league and has averaged better than 16 points per game in conference play. Santa Clara’s task will be to keep him perimeter-based and limit his penetration.
This is not a one-man job. Santa Clara will need help defense to keep him out of the lane.
Teams have started to lock in on Dickerson. The junior forward, who is averaging 11 rebound per game, has not had double digit rebounds since the Santa Clara game.
On the flip side, Raymond Cowels III has been one of the Broncos to have stepped up his play recently and has averaged 12.3 points in WCC play.
Evan Roquemore had his worst game of the season against BYU, going 1-for-10 from the field, but should rebound against USF.
“We got a little disconcerted with each other when we didn’t have it go our way to take the lead after battling back like we did,” Santa Clara head coach Kerry Keating said after their loss to BYU.
Santa Clara has played competitively during WCC play and was picked to finish sixth in the league but let’s remember the Broncos didn’t win a single conference game a year ago.