GAME NOTES: The Santa Clara Broncos aim for their 20th win of the season as they visit the Chiles Center for a West Coast Conference tilt against the Portland Pilots.
The Broncos coasted to a 70-46 victory over Portland on Jan. 31 at home in the inaugural bout of the season series. In that game, the Pilots were not able to sink their first field goal until 8:33 remained in the opening half and finished the contest 13-of-52 from the floor. SCU coasted by connecting on 50 percent of its field goal tries. The win gave the Broncos a 56-30 all-time record versus Portland.
Although SCU is coming off of a lopsided, 85-42, loss to Gonzaga, its overall performance this campaign is a complete turnaround from a season ago when it finished winless in WCC action. The Broncos come in with a 19-9 overall record including a 7-6 mark against league rivals. Kevin Foster is one of the top scorers in the conference at 17.9 ppg, but he has plenty of help on the offensive end with Marc Trasolini (15.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg), Evan Roquemore (12.1 ppg, 5.6 apg) and Raymond Cowels III (9.6 ppg).
Foster, Roquemore and Cowels were bottled up by Gonzaga as they combined to go 4-of-24 from the floor for a collective total of nine points. Brandon Clark came off the bench to lead the team with 14 points, but he was the lone Bronco in double-figures in the miserable setback. SCU dealt out just four assists to 12 turnovers and lost the rebounding battle, 41-20. SCU may not be up to par with the Zags just yet, but it has risen to the upper portion of the WCC. Coach Kerry Keating has done a terrific job getting his squad to maintain balance, as the Broncos are fourth in the WCC in scoring offense (74.2) and just one spot back in scoring defense (67.0).
After enduring a six-game losing slide, Portland has bounced back to win three of its last five contests. Kevin Bailey tallied 18 points on Thursday to pace the Pilots in their hard-fought, 70-67 win over San Diego. Also getting in on the action, Ryan Nicholas and Derrick Rodgers scored 15 points each. Thomas van der Mars made his mark with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds for Portland as it improved to an 11-18 overall standing.
Coach Eric Reveno's team is enduring another rebuilding season, and while the team has shown flashes of potential, it is far from competing for the WCC crown. Nicholas is the leader of the team with 13.1 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest while Bailey chips in 11.4 ppg on 42.7 percent shooting from the field. Rodgers has really stepped up his play as his career nears its conclusion. The 6-foot-11 van der Mars has stepped up his play as of late with six-straight double digit scoring outputs with a pair of double-doubles during that stretch. On the season, the Pilots are being outscored by an average of 6.4 ppg, which is the worst differential in the conference.
The Pilots' sophomore center's improvement began immediately after the team's loss to SCU. If van der Mars can continue his stellar play in this one, Portland will fare much better. However, he may struggle against Trasolini, who is one of the main reasons why the Broncos have been the comeback team of year.
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