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Santa Clara, Calif. - Playing at home certainly has its privileges, just ask Santa Clara and Portland. The home team has won eight of the last nine meetings. Its a streak Santa Clara would like to see continue as the Broncos host the Portland Pilots on Thurs., Feb. 2 at 7 pm. Mark Neely and Mark Adams will make the call in the ESPNU nationally-televised game, the 83rd meeting between the two teams. Santa Clara is looking to snap a different streak though, its nine-game losing streak dating back to Dec. 30, 2011.
Santa Clara leads the Portland series 55-27, including 34-7 at home. Santa Clara and Portland have split the season series three of the last four seasons with Portland sweeping it in 2010 and Santa Clara sweeping it in 2006 and '07. Santa Clara is 3-6 vs. Portland under head coach Kerry Keating in his first five seasons.
The Pilots got the best of the Broncos earlier this season in Portland, coming away with an 84-74 victory on Jan. 5, 2012. Niyi Harrison tied a then-career-high with 19 points off the bench at Portland. He was 7 of 8 from the free throw line, tying a career-high with free throws made. Brandon Clark came off the bench to dump in a career-high 16 points in Portland. He was 5 of 8 from the field (both career highs) and 5 of 6 from the free throw line (also career highs). He also tied his career high with five assists.
It is expected the Broncos will again be without the services of leading scorer Kevin Foster. As a result of an incident Jan. 21, Foster will be withheld from competition pending the outcome of the University's student judicial process (he also missed the LMU, USF and Pepperdine games).
Look and Listen
The Portland game will be televised nationally on ESPNU with Mark Neely and Mark Adams making the call. Tip-off is set for 7:05 pm.
The Portland game will also be broadcast via the Bronco Radio Network on both KDOW 1220 AM and Broncos All-Access at www.SantaClaraBroncos.com with the broadcast beginning at 7 p.m. on KDOW 1220AM. Anthony Passarelli is in his fifth season as the Broncos' play-by-play announcer. Out of the listening area, KDOW is streamed online at www.1220kdow.com.
Santa Clara will play at least eight games televised on the ESPN networks during the regular season, with five ESPN games during West Coast Conference play. It played on ESPNU at BYU on Jan. 14, falling 95-78, and it has four more games on the ESPN networks this season: vs. Portland (Feb. 2, ESPNU), at USF (Feb. 9, ESPNU), vs. Gonzaga (Feb. 16, ESPN2) and vs. BYU (Feb. 18, ESPNU). In addition to five league games on the ESPN networks, Santa Clara was 2-1 on the ESPN network at the 76 Classic Nov. 24-27 with wins over New Mexico and Villanova sandwiched between a loss to Okahoma.
Youth Being Served
Every Santa Clara player will return next season, with the exception of senior walk-on Phillip Bach. With the loss of All-WCC junior forward Marc Trasolini (torn ACL) prior to the season, Santa Clara is one of the youngest teams in the country with its 11 scholarship players this season totalling just eight years of total court time (no seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and five freshmen). With no Foster in the lineup currently, Santa Clara now tallies six total years of court time with its 10 available scholarship players. Six! In addition to leadership, SCU is without its top three rebounders from last season (Trasolini and graduation of Ben Dowdell and WCC Defender of the Year Troy Payne).
Against Portland, the Broncos will start two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman. The next five players off the bench, including walk-on Jordan Akwenuke, are all freshmen. Five freshmen have started in the last three games, including Brandon Clark (started first career game vs. USF), Denzel Johnson (first career start at Pepperdine), Yannick Atanga (second career start), Robert Garrett (first career start vs. LMU) and Julian Clarke (first career start vs. LMU).
Santa Clara is 8-13 and 0-8 in the WCC this season. The Broncos are playing their last home game before hitting the road for three straight (at USD Feb. 4, at USF Feb. 9 and at SMC Feb. 11).
Playing its fourth WCC game in eight days seemed to take its toll on the Broncos as Santa Clara fell 74-62 at Pepperdine on Jan. 28 in its last game. The Waves took a four point lead to their home lockerroom at halftime, 32-28, and went on to put the game away with a 16-3 run over a five minute period in the second half. Santa Clara shot 47.1 percent from the field (24 of 51), including 44.4 percent from beyond the arc (8 of 18). Evan Roquemore led the Broncos with 15 points and five assists. Raymond Cowels III and Brandon Clark both scored 12 each. John McArthur collected a team-high four rebounds and added eight points with a career-high three assists. Denzel Johnson also scored eight coming off his 26-point performance vs. USF on Jan. 26.
The Broncos have three players averaging double figures: Kevin Foster leads team with 17.8 ppg, Evan Roquemore scores 14.0 ppg and Niyi Harrison 10.7 ppg. Roquemore leads the team with 5.2 apg. Harrison leads the team with 6.3 rpg and Yannick Atanga is second with 5.4 rpg.
Three Broncos average double figures in conference play with Foster leading with 15.6 ppg, Harrison with 13.3 and Roquemore 12.8 ppg. Harrison is the leading rebounder in league play with 5.4 rpg and Roquemore paces the team with 4.1 apg.
Denzel Johnson's 26 points off the bench vs. USF are the highest point total by a Bronco this season in a WCC game.
Harrison has 10 7+ rebound games this year, pulling down nine rebounds with a career-high 23 points vs. Saint Mary's. Raymond Cowels III has 3+ threes in nine of the last 17 games, including a career-high six 3s vs. Villanova.
The Broncos are No. 22 nationally with 8.3 threes per game and also lead the WCC. The Broncos have shot 140 more threes than their opponents this season. SCU has shot 488 and the opponents have shot 348. In return, the Broncos have made 48 more than their opponents (175 to 127 made). Of the 1,221 shots attempted by the Broncos this year, 39.9 % have come beyond the arc and they hit 35.9 percent beyond the arc. The opponents are shooting 36.5 percent beyond the arc and 30.4 percent of their field goal attempts are coming from beyond the arc.
Santa Clara is averaging 70.7 ppg, including 69.0 ppg in league play. It's giving up 74.5 ppg, including 83.4 ppg in league play. Each of its eight losses in the West Coast Conference this season have been by double digits.
Looking back for a second, SCU finished last season 24-14 and won the post-season CIT with All-WCC guard Foster collecting MVP honors.
Portland is 5-17 and 2-7 in the WCC. It is 0-11 this season on the road, including 0-4 in the WCC. After defeating Santa Clara and Pepperdine at home in consecutive league games, the Pilots have dropped six straight, including a 62-59 game at LMU on Sat., Jan. 28.
Ryan Nicholas leads the team with 11.0 ppg and 7.5 rpg. Tim Douglas chips in 9.2 ppg. Kevin Bailey leads the team in league games with 11.1 ppg and Nicholas scores 10.6 ppg, grabbing a team-leading 8.0 rpg.
The Pilots score 63.8 ppg and give up 74.4 ppg. While it has lost four games by 12 points or less, it fell 90-51 at Gonzaga on Dec. 28 and 104-70 at USF on Jan. 12.
Combining points and rebounds, Niyi Harrison has three double-doubles in his career and John McArthur has two, both this season. Combining points and assists, Evan Roquemore has two, also both this season.
Harrison has two double-double's this season: his first this season was in Santa Clara's 71-58 victory over Cal State Northridge on Dec. 3 when he scored 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. His second this season was in the win over Eastern Michigan on Dec. 29 when he collected 13 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. His first career double-double came during his freshman year against Northeastern on Dec. 29, 2009 when he finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Harrison has "missed" a double-double three times this season with nine rebounds in those games. Those games: 10 points, nine rebounds vs. Wagner on Dec. 30; 23 points, nine rebounds vs. Saint Mary's on Jan. 21 and 11 points, nine rebounds vs. LMU on Jan. 23.
McArthur's two double-doubles both came this season. He scored 19 points with 10 rebounds vs. San Jose State on Nov. 19 and then collected 12 points and 12 rebounds at Houston Baptist on Dec. 21.
Roquemore's first career double-double was vs. Oklahoma on Nov. 25 when he scored 27 points and added 10 assists. He collected his second career double-double vs. Pacific on Dec. 17 when he scored 14 and dished out a career-high 11 assists.
Evan Roquemore is averaging 5.24 apg, including 4.13 apg in league play. Roquemore is No. 49 nationally in apg and he is No. 2 in apg in league play as well. He has collected 7+ assists in six games this season and 4+ assists in 14 of 21 games.
This season he is leading the team in apg, with 110 overall, and also in free throw percentage, hitting 80.0 percent of his chances (84 of 105).Last season he broke the Bronco freshman assist record with 139, topping Brian Jones who scored 119 assists in 1996-97. He broke the freshman records for free throws made (159) and attempted (193) last season, coming .001 from tying Steve Nash's record for free throw percentage. Nash was 82.5 percent from the free throw line in 1992-93 and Roquemore was 82.4 percent (159 of 193) last season.
After being selected to the 76 Classic Five-Man All-Tournament team and leading the WCC in points and assists per game and free throw percentage, Roquemore was named the WCC Player of the Week on Nov. 28. Nationally he was also named the Lou Henson Award Co-Player of the Week and the Jesuit Men's Basketball Co-Player of the Week.
At the 76 Classic, the sophomore averaged 22.7 points and eight assists per contest, shooting 52% from the floor. His 24 total assists are a new 76 Classic tournament record. In addition to the assists, he shot 95.7 percent from the free throw line at the Classic, hitting 22 of 23. It is a first-time honor for the sophomore from Henderson, Nev.
He led SCU to victories over New Mexico and Villanova Thanksgiving weekend, and a third-place finish at the 76 Classic. In the 79-76 OT win over pre-tournament favorite New Mexico, Roquemore poured in 26 points. Against Oklahoma, Roquemore posted a double-double with 27 points and 10 assists. He poured in 15 points and dished out nine assists in the 65-64 comeback win over Villanova. Santa Clara finished the final 2:56 minutes of the game on a 10-0 run to defeat the 'Cats with Roquemore hitting four clutch free throws with less than 10 seconds left to clinch the win.
Raymond Cowels III has had success from deep with eight games of 3+ threes including six vs. Villanova. He has also shot 83.3 percent or better from the line in seven games, proving to be a reliable free-throw shooter.
Denzel Johnson, like Denzel Washington, was supposed to be a girl. Well, at least that's what both sets of parents thought throughout the pregnancy so they never picked a boys name. So when the Johnson parents, CJ and Denise, had a son they were stuck. After some discussion in the hospital, they named their baby after the actor. A few years later CJ met Denzel Washington and he told him the story. Washington laughed and said his parents had the same problem (no boys name picked) so they named the actor after the doctor who brought him into the world.
Johnson had a break-out performance of his own when he scored 26 points off the bench vs. USF on Jan. 26. In a career-high 34 minutes, Johnson was a career-best 12 of 18 from the field, including a career-best 2 of 5 from beyond the arc vs. the Dons. Even more amazing, he didn't shoot any free throws in the game.
Johnson's older brother Brandon is a senior point guard (5-11, 190) at Kentucky Weselyan. The elder Johnson averages 11.0 ppg in 29.6 mpg and he has started all 18 games for the 16-2 Panthers. Kentucky Weselyan was ranked No. 1 nationally in January after starting the season 14-0. They are currently ranked No. 7 nationally and it marks the 325th time the Panthers are in the Top 25 since the rankings started in 1961.
Athletics is in the Johnson family blood. Johnson's uncle Gary Payton played basketball at Oregon State and in the NBA with the Supersonics, Lakers and Heat. His cousin Travis Davis played football at Notre Dame and in the NFL for the Jaguars and Steelers
In the wake of Mark Trasolini's season-ending ACL tear, Niyi Harrison has stepped up and filled the frontcourt void admirably. The 6-9 junior has started all but two games while grabbing 8+ rebounds in 11 of 21 contests including a career-high 13 vs. EMU. He has also made significant growth offensively, scoring in double figures 13 times including a career-high 23 vs. No. 23 Saint Mary's and 19 point games vs. New Mexico and at Portland. He leads the team with three double-doubles.
The team's starting center, John McArthur, has pulled down 4+ rebounds in 10 of 21 games including a career-best 12 boards at Houston Baptist. He has two career double-doubles this season (vs. San Jose State and at Houston Baptist).
True freshman Robert Garrett and freshman-redshirt Yannick Atanga have both come off the bench to play inside as well. Atanga is the team's second-leading rebounder with 5.4 rpg. Garrett, who started the LMU game and collected a career-high three blocks vs. both LMU and No. 23 Saint Mary's, has averaged 7.1 mpg in 19 games with 1.4 ppg and 1.5 rpg.