Record: 14-19 (6-12)
Postseason: None (Loss in quarterfinals of WCC Tournament)
Leading Scorer: Jared Brownridge (17.2 ppg)
Leading Rebounder: Jerry Brown (5.5 rpg)
Leading Assists: Brandon Clark (3.5 apg)
Season in Review
A David Stockton lay-up with 1.4 seconds left in the WCC Tournament quarterfinals ended the Broncos season, handing them a 77-75 loss. A valiant comeback, topped by a Jared Brownridge equalizer with 10 seconds left, fell short as the Zags beat them on a buzzer beater for the second time this season. However, given virtually no chance before the game, the Broncos almost shocked the world and ended the season on a good note.
Santa Clara ended the season in exactly the same position they were predicted to be: 8th in the WCC. After a 67-66 loss to Rice to fall to 2-4, it seemed the Broncos may be heading for a disappointing year. However, they finished the rest of the non-conference season strong, winning 5 of their last 7, to go 7-6 in non-conference ball.
The start of conference play was very promising for the Broncos. After starting 2-2 with close losses to Gonzaga and Pepperdine, the best night of the year happened with 57-55 win against rival Saint Mary’s in Moraga. Jared Brownridge hit a cold-blooded three from the top of the key with 1.2 seconds left to give Santa Clara the win, and it looked like they could make some noise in the WCC.
However, this was the highlight of the year for the Broncos, as they rolled off seven consecutive losses to fall to tied for last in the WCC at 3-9. They were able to stop the run and finish the season 3-3 to finish with a 6-12 conference record. They handled Pacific in the first round easily, and got out to a hot start against Gonzaga. In a back and forth second half, the Broncos fell behind by 5 with under 30 seconds left. A 3-point play by Brandon Clark, a forced turnover and a jumper by Brownridge later, the Broncos came within 9 seconds of maybe robbing Gonzaga of an NCAA tournament bid.
It was a turbulent season from the Broncos, but one that showed a lot of promise for the future. Jared Brownridge emerged as a freshman superstar for Santa Clara, winning conference Newcomer of the Year. He showed a knack for hitting clutch shots against quality teams which is rare as a freshman (unless your name is Aaron Harrison). His best games came later in the year, and his progression has Bronco fans excited for another Kevin Foster type player.
Another pleasant surprise from this year was Brandon Clark, who averaged 16.9 ppg and led the team in assists. The starting backcourt of Clark, Brownridge, and freshman Jalen Richard was one of the best in the league and all return next year. Evan Roquemore finished his stellar career this year, but saw his numbers drop a little with the emergence of those three. He still had a very solid senior year coming off the bench, and was integral to their success in the WCC tournament.
The biggest problem that plagued the Broncos this year was in the front court. They were never able to get consistent production from their bigs, and were often eaten alive on the boards against WCC opponents. With a rebounding margin of -6.4 in conference play, they finished last in the WCC in rebounding by a large margin. Their three guard lineup hurt them a lot against teams with big forwards; like USF, where forwards Cole Dickerson and Kruize Pinkins averaged 20.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in their two games against the Broncos. Jerry Brown was their most productive big at 7.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Yannick Atanga and John McArthur both looked good in spurts, and offensively they were not asked to do that much. However, to compete with the big boys of the WCC, Santa Clara will need to get bigger up front.
MVP: Jared Brownridge
This one was tough between him and Brandon Clark, but it seemed that the Broncos went as Brownridge went this year. His 38 point performance in the final regular season game against Pepperdine showed the type of potential he has. He shot an incredible 43.6% from three on the year, and he broke the Santa Clara freshman scoring record.
Most Improved: Brandon Clark
Clark came off the bench during his sophomore year, and while he led the team in scoring off the bench, he made a huge jump to get to number four in the WCC in scoring. Clark was more of a well rounded player this year as well, leading the team in assists and steals.
Defensive Player of the Year: Yannick Atanga
This was hard to pick, as there was no clear defensive stopper for this team and no one that really stands out statistically. However, Atanga led the team in blocks and was second in rebounding, while only playing 16 minutes a game. With an increased role next year, Atanga should see these numbers increase and could give Santa Clara a presence in the middle.
This was expected to be a down year for the Broncos with the departure of Kevin Foster and Marc Trasolini, and they definitely took a step back in terms of performance. However, they remained competitive and gave the top of the league plenty of trouble. If Stockton’s layup rolls out, we could be having a whole different discussion right now. With Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark coming back next year, the Broncos are certain to be contenders again. Above all, this year will give them confidence going into the future; they have the ability, and the future looks bright.