SPOKANE — Gonzaga didn’t have much to complain about after a blowout of Santa Clara.
The third-ranked Zags jumped out to an early lead and ran past Santa Clara 85-42 on Wednesday night.
“It might be one of our best performances,” Gonzaga guard Mike Hart said. “We shut them down offensively.”
Elias Harris scored 17 points and Kelly Olynyk added 15 points for Gonzaga (26-2, 13-0 West Coast), which is riding its best ranking in the poll ever and won its ninth game in a row.
The Zags held Santa Clara to 30 percent shooting (16 of 53) and outrebounded them 45-22.
“They outscored us, out-rebounded us and outplayed us,” said Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating. “They solidified their position as one of the best teams in the country.”
Brandon Clark led Santa Clara (19-9, 7-6) with 14 points. Leading scorer Kevin Foster was saddled with three fouls in the first half and finished with just four points, 14 below his average.
Gonzaga needs one more victory to claim at least a share of the WCC regular season title it lost last season. The Broncos are battling to finish in the top four to earn a bye into the quarterfinals of the WCC tournament next month.
Santa Clara averages 75 points per game, and had not scored less than 60 points in a game all season. They lost just 81-74 at home against Gonzaga.
But cold shooting did them in.
Santa Clara sank the first basket of the game, then watched Gonzaga score 15 straight points over the next 6 minutes to take control. Gonzaga led 22-5 after 11 minutes, with most of their baskets on layups. The Broncos made only two of their first 16 shots, firing mostly from long range.
Olynyk’s steal and stuff ignited a 12-2 Gonzaga run that put the Bulldogs ahead 34-9.
“We had a fast start right away and kept it going,” Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos said. “To do that and focus and not relax for any part of the game is good.”
Gonzaga led 44-15 at halftime after shooting 60 percent (18 of 30) and getting 15 points from Harris. Santa Clara made just 6 of 28 shots, 21 percent, and was outrebounded 25-10 in the half. It was easily the lowest scoring half of the season for the Broncos.
“They played more aggressive early on the defensive end,” Keating said of the Zags. “Rebounding was not there for us.”
Santa Clara scored the first basket of the second half, and Gonzaga replied with a 14-2 run that pushed its lead to 58-19. The Bulldogs substituted heavily after that.
Gonzaga shot 56.9 percent for the game and made 7 of 17 3-pointers.
The Bulldogs host San Diego on Saturday with a chance to clinch at least a share of the WCC regular season title they lost of Saint Mary’s last season.
“It’s huge,” Pangos said. “We want that one bad.”
Santa Clara’s poor offensive showing came despite the fact they are among only three teams in the nation that have four players who have scored at least 1,000 points in their careers: Kevin Foster, Evan Roquemore, Raymond Cowels and Marc Trasolini. Foster is the leading scorer in Santa Clara history.
Gonzaga has won 27 of the past 28 games against the Broncos.
After going 0-16 in WCC games last season, the Broncos are enjoying one of the biggest turnarounds in WCC history.
Gonzaga’s only losses this season are to Illinois and at Butler. Their 26-2 start is the best since the 2003-04 team opened 28-2.
Gonzaga is 118-8 in the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004.