SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Santa Clara men's basketball shook off a resilient Denver team, 81-64, in Wednesday's Cable Car Classic opener at Leavey Center behind a balanced scoring attack led by Tahj Eaddy's 19 points.
Four other players – Guglielmo Caruso (18), Keshawn Justice (16), Josip Vrankic (13) and Trey Wertz (12) - scored in double figures for the Broncos who shot 57 percent from the floor in the second half and pulled away after giving up a double-digit first-half lead. For the game, the Broncos shot 51 percent compared to 46 percent for the Pioneers who were led by Jase Townsend's 15 points and Robert Jones' 14.
Justice scored 12 second-half points with eight coming during a key 13-2 run to retake a 51-43 lead after Denver (2-4) erased a Bronco advantage shortly after intermission on a pair of 3-pointers by Townsend.
The Broncos used a 14-0 run late in the game to take their largest lead at 72-52.
Vrankic had 10 rebounds to post his eighth-career double-double and was just three assists shy of his first-career triple double.
Santa Clara, led by Caruso got off to a fast start, scoring 16 of the first 18 points and forcing five turnovers in the opening 5 minutes. Caruso nailed his first four shots from the floor and scored eight of the first nine points for the Broncos.
But Denver, which went scoreless for the first 5:46 of the game, pulled within four points on an 8-0 run as Robert Jones got free for a pair of dunks.
The Broncos got the lead back into double digits twice more, but the Pioneers answered each time. Murkey's layup cut the deficit to 29-23 and Denver scored six points in the final 1:26 of the half to trim the Santa Clara lead to 36-31.
• The Broncos and Pioneers are tied at 2-all in the all-time series. The rosters of the two teams combined to feature only one senior in Denver's Ade Murkey.
• Santa Clara, which had won 12 of its last 13 nonconference home games, is off to its best start since opening 7-1 in 1997-98.
• Tahj Eaddy (19) and Keshawn Justice (16) each had season-highs in scoring. Justice's seven made field goals were a career high.
• Guglielmo Caruso reached double figures in scoring for the sixth time this season.
• The Broncos had 21 assists led by a career-high tying seven from Josip Vrankic. Santa Clara reached at least 20 assists for the fourth time this season. Vrankic has 14 assists in the last two games.
The Broncos play their second game in the Cable Car Classic on Friday. Tipoff between Santa Clara and Southeast Missouri is set for 2 p.m. Denver and Cal State Fullerton will face off at 4:30 p.m. The tournament concludes on Saturday with two games beginning at 1 p.m.