Bal’s Late Basket Leads Santa Clara to 77-76 Victory Over No. 23 Gonzaga
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Adama-Alpha Bal scored the go-ahead basket with 4.6 seconds remaining and Santa Clara beat No. 23 Gonzaga 77-76 on Thursday night.
Bal had 17 points and six assists as the Broncos (12-6, 3-0 West Coast Conference) beat the Bulldogs for the first time since Jan. 20, 2011, snapping a 26-game losing streak.
“Obviously a tremendous win for our team and our program,” Santa Clara coach Herb Sendek said. “Certainly couldn’t be prouder of our players. They played with great grit and resiliency. They really played together.”
Brenton Knapper added 16 points as five Broncos players scored in double figures.
A sellout crowd at the Leavey Center erupted when the buzzer sounded and many fans stormed the court.
“It was amazing having all of the fans storm the court, being able to see everybody, just pure joy,” Santa Clara forward Johnny O'Neil said. “That was something that I’m never going to forget.”
Anton Watson matched a career-high with 32 points to lead Gonzaga (11-5, 2-1). He added nine rebounds and six steals in the loss.
“Anton was spectacular tonight,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said. “It’s tough. We had some not-great games from a lot of other people. Didn’t get much of anything out of other people, so it’s hard on the road to get it done.”
Ryan Nembhard scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half, and Braden Huff added 14 points.
Trailing 52-44, Gonzaga went on a 19-6 run to take a 63-58 lead with 10:48 remaining. Santa Clara cut the lead to 76-74 on a dunk by O’Neil with 50 seconds remaining.
Following a Bulldogs miss, Bal drew a foul with 14.3 seconds left but only made one of two free throws, cutting the lead to 76-75.
Nembhard missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving Santa Clara another chance and Bal scored the go-ahead basket.
“I just felt like it was my moment,” Bal said. … “It’s definitely a special game.”
Added O'Neil: “That’s what we all came here for. We all wanted to come here to make this happen, and it happened tonight.”
Gonzaga missed its first 11 3-pointers and Santa Clara built a 38-25 lead. But the Bulldogs closed the first half on a 9-2 run to cut the Broncos’ lead to 40-34 at halftime.
Gonzaga made just two of its 20 3-pointers for the game and got outrebounded 44-31.
“We showed some courage and some toughness coming back and putting ourselves in position to win, but we just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch to finish it off,” Few said.
Former Santa Clara standout and Basketball Hall of Famer Steve Nash was in attendance and received a standing ovation when he was shown on the video screen in the first half.
The Broncos wore throwback uniforms from the 1990s when Nash led the program to three NCAA Tournament appearances and a pair of first-round upset wins.
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs are in serious jeopardy of falling out of the AP Top 25 Poll for the first time in 144 weeks. Gonzaga fell to 0-2 on the road this season.
Santa Clara: The Broncos improved to 3-0 in the WCC for the first time since the 2003-04 season and proved that they are a contender to win the league. Santa Clara will face another stiff test Saturday when they welcome Bay Area rival Saint Mary’s (CA).
Gonzaga: At Pepperdine next Thursday night.
Santa Clara: Hosts Saint Mary’s (CA) on Saturday night.