The Santa Clara Broncos are currently in second place in the WCC following a five-game win streak.
Next week they travel to War Memorial Gymnasium for a grudge match with the University of San Francisco Dons. During their last contest, the Broncos were topped 74-67 despite taking an 11-point lead into halftime.
I sat down with Santa Clara head coach Kerry Keating to discuss the remainder of the Broncos' WCC schedule.
You have a four-game winning streak in the WCC, five overall. What did the win against Gonzaga do for you?
All the wins did something for us because [his players] have done a good job of taking it one game at a time. In hindsight it’s given us a little bit of confidence, but the Portland game was even more important as evidenced, obviously, with what happened against St. Mary’s (Portland beat St. Mary’s 85-70 in Oregon). St. Mary’s beat Gonzaga (73-71), albeit on the road and lost at Portland so it’s a tricky proposition when you get hyped up for one game.
Our guys are doing a good job of taking it one game at a time and focusing in and taking care of that before they move on and also not looking back. To be honest with you, that’s almost so far in the past you can’t even worry about it because you have to worry about San Francisco in our next game.
How are you going to approach that game in San Francisco?
The benefit of playing these teams a second time is that we played them all once before. We had an 11-point lead at halftime, I was disappointed that we lost that lead at home, so we have a little bit to get back, but San Francisco is playing well too. We’re both tied for second so there’s a lot riding on in beyond just trying to win the next game.
Our preparation will be the same. Our focus will be the same. Obviously we’ve had a chance to watch them play in the six games since which will give us a better idea of what they’ve been doing.
What message would that send to the rest of the WCC if you got that win in San Francisco?
I don’t know. A lot of teams are right there. Portland and Gonzaga are going to be right behind because someone has to be 5-3 at the end of that game. Obviously Saint Mary’s whether they win or not are going to be at the top. It’s going to take a little while before any separation happens because it seems to be pretty clogged up there. We just need to do our part and not worry about anyone else.
How do you become the top team in the WCC?
You have to keep winning. We need to keep doing the things we’ve done to get ourselves to this point: continue to work hard, stay solid academically, stay solid with our bodies, and continue to exercise gameplans and practice time we have—take advantage of it. We have two days to get a good practice in before we head over to War Memorial.
The message stays the same, it shouldn’t change, because it wasn’t any different when we got to that point. We have to keep marching forward and do what we do.
You are giving up 70.8 points a game. What do you need to do to crack down on defense?
Our defense has actually been better. Saint Mary’s skewed it a little bit because they played us so well and shot us so well. In the stretch we’ve had recently we’ve played pretty solid defense—we lead the league in steals [167 total, 7.3 average per game]—that has been the way we’ve been able to overcome some of the percentages that are high and get some more possessions back by pressuring the ball.
We’ve done a pretty good job on defense, but now we need to do a little bit better because there’s no secrets. Everyone knows what we’ve done now having played in the league once through already.
Do you think you’ll get more attendance now that the WCC is more competitive?
I hope so. I hope that everyone wants to come support this team that has put itself in a good position. It’ll be hard to do, but it may be a little bit of a push and a little bit easier for us to get the continued student support that has been so good and try to make Leavey a tough place to play no matter who’s playing.
Two years ago Saint Mary’s got snubbed in the at-large bidding for the NCAA Tournament, in my opinion. It seems like you need to win the WCC Tournament to get in. Do you believe you can win March’s tournament in Las Vegas?
I think Saint Mary’s is in the tournament, no matter what happens, unless they have a colossal collapse. They’ve been playing for a seed now. They’ve done enough and have played a good enough schedule and I think they’ve earned that. Obviously, we don’t make those decisions, but time will tell and I think they’ll be in a good position.
But it’s been hard, because of the balance in our league, to separate for an at-large type of situation so obviously it puts a lot of pressure on that tournament to get what is always that automatic bid.
For years the WCC has gone through Gonzaga. Do you think Saint Mary’s has taken control of the league?
Not yet. They haven’t won the regular season yet. I think you have to win the regular season consistently for it to go through anything and Gonzaga has still done that and obviously Saint Mary’s is in that position now, but is not that far away from anyone to get that.
It takes some time for it to go through you and Gonzaga has definitely done that.
You have recruited people from all over North America and overseas. How has your team come together as a unit over the course of the season?
They share the common denominator of being really good, motivated students. [They are] motivated players that want to win, and guys that want to get better, [and] that really care about each other and respect what each other is doing to help each other become better players, better people and better teammates. We work on that every day and our guys have done a fantastic job of that.
They’ve maintained their over 3.0 GPAs as a team and that’s a testament to their work ethic off the floor and now we’re starting to see it over on to the floor by way of some wins.
We can’t settle, we can’t get complacent, we can’t pretend that we’ve got it all figured out and that we’re good. We got to keep moving on and know that we’ve probably gotten some more attention from some folks by winning some games so we’ve got to be ready to go each and every time out and that starts on Saturday against San Francisco.