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CIT Recap - Santa Clara vs Air Force

Santa Clara 88, Air Force 75

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The 2011 NCAA Tournament has already created two conference matchups in the bracket, with Cincinnati playing Connecticut and Marquette staring down Syracuse in two extensions of last week’s Big East Tournament. On Friday night, the Tournament came one step closer to staging its own conference clash.

The Santa Clara Broncos, carrying the banner for the West Coast Conference, thumped the visiting Air Force Falcons late Friday night at the Leavey Center in Santa Clara, California. The authoritative display by coach Kerry Keating’s team lifted SCU into the quarterfinals of this 24-team tournament. If the San Francisco Dons can go to the islands and dispatch the Hawaii Warriors today (Saturday), an all-West Coast Conference confrontation will emerge in the quarterfinals, thereby ensuring that at least one WCC team will make the CIT semifinals. It’s a happy turn of events for the league that lost St. Mary’s in the first round of the NIT and needed a boost in the second tier of the conference.

Santa Clara flourished at the offensive end of the floor in this game, whipping coach Jeff Reynolds’s Air Force Academy crew on a night that wasn’t very nice to the Mountain West Conference. Just a few hours after league rival UNLV got crushed by Illinois in the NCAA Tournament, Air Force couldn’t salvage a measure of honor for the Mountain West. Santa Clara executed too well to allow that to happen.

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The Broncos shot well in all three of the common shooting categories that are statistically tracked. Santa Clara hit an entirely respectable 45 percent of its field goal attempts, 48 percent of its threes (13 for 27), and 73 percent of its foul shots. The Broncos got to the line 37 times, so 73-percent shooting translated to 27 makes at the charity stripe, which gave the home team a plus-10 scoring margin at the line. Air Force hit 17 free throws in 22 attempts. Since this was a 13-point contest, it’s fair to say that the foul line had more than a little to do with the ultimate outcome.

Another huge point of differentiation in this intersectional encounter emerged in the realm of rebounding. Santa Clara crushed Air Force on the glass, 38-15, including a whopping 18-2 margin on the offensive boards. The proliferation of second chances led to many of the Broncos’ free-throw opportunities and enabled the home team to establish a working margin throughout the evening.

Santa Clara’s quarterfinal game against San Francisco or Hawaii will be played on Tuesday, March 22. The tip time and the location have not yet been announced.


By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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