Back-to-back threes from Kevin Foster early in the second half may have been the dagger for Santa Clara.
The senior’s jumpers were part of a 17-2 second half run which gave Santa Clara a comfortable lead as they rolled to the 85-54 West Coast Conference win over San Francisco on Thursday.
“We’re really happy coming off a tough stretch, for us come out to respond on the road in a place that’s a really tough place to play,” Santa Clara head coach Kerry Keating said. “I thought we did a great job of responding on the defensive end. It led to good looks on the offense.”
The win snapped a three-game skid for Santa Clara (13-6, 2-3 WCC), which included losses to Gonzaga and BYU, and starts a stretch of games where they will play Pepperdine, San Diego, and Portland.
San Francisco (7-11, 0-5) had its first lopsided loss since it was routed in the opening round against San Diego State on Dec. 23. The Dons have lost nine of their last 11 games.
The Broncos had an 11-point halftime lead and immediately went on a run. A 7-0 run capped by a Marc Trasolini dunk forced San Francisco to call a timeout. After two free throws by Tim Derksen, it became the Foster show.
Foster scored the next 10 points for the Broncos and helped open up a 52-26 lead. He finished with a game-high 27 points on 9-for-15 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds, marking his first career double-double.
“He was taking good shots in rhythm and you got to feed the dog when it’s hot,” Keating said of Foster. “When he’s going, you kind of got to let him go. It’s a pretty good proposition when he’s feeling it like that.”
San Francisco had come back from a 19-point deficit in their matchup on Jan. 2 and Santa Clara made sure there wouldn’t be a repeat of the conference opener. USF did not collect its first basket of the second half until the 13:22 mark.
“We were just making sure we were we had a contest on every shot and make sure we were closing out and being aggressive on defense,” Foster said.
Santa Clara held USF to 33 percent shooting in the second half and made shots difficult for the USF shooters.
The 31-point margin of victory is the third largest in school history and the largest for Santa Clara since Feb. 15, 1989 at San Francisco when the Broncos won 88-50.
Cole Dickerson, who has averaged a double-double this season, collected only four rebounds and was held below 10 rebounds for the fourth straight game.
Raymond Cowels has become more assertive offensively since the beginning of conference play and it showed again in San Francisco. Cowels, who was averaging 9.4 points, scored 17 points against USF and is averaging better than 12 per contest in WCC play.
“He knows his space, he knows his place,” Keating said. “The guys trust him.”
A jumper from De’End Parker and a layup from Matt Christiansen cut the Santa Clara lead to 14-12 but then USF could not find the bottom of the basket.
The Dons went more than seven minutes without a basket and the Broncos made them pay and went on a 12-2 run, which included six points from Foster, putting them up 26-14.
Foster scored 12 points in the first half, which included three from beyond the arc.
“I’ve been watching a lot of film with the assistant coaches, seeing what works and what doesn’t,” Foster said. “Just making sure I’m always taking good shots. Finding where the shots come through on offense… It’s helping me a lot.”
Santa Clara did a good job in the first half of keeping USF out of the lane and preventing penetration. The Dons scored 10 points in the paint in the half, with eight of them coming from Matt Christiansen.
Christiansen scored a team- and career-high 12 points on the night. His previous career-high was eight points against Saint Mary’s last Saturday.
The Broncos also took advantage of the extra opportunities they were given. They scored 11 second chance points on nine offensive rebounds, while USF did not score a single second chance point.
The freshman forward has seen his playing time increase over the last month and since the team’s second game in the Diamond Head Classic against Ole Miss, he has averaged 16 minutes per game.
Prior to that he had played more than five minutes once.