Santa Clara ends 26-game run of futility vs. No. 23 Gonzaga

Adama-Alpha Bal converted the decisive layup with 4.6 seconds left and host Santa Clara ended a 26-game losing streak against No. 23 Gonzaga with a 77-76 victory over the Bulldogs in West Coast Conference play on Thursday night.

Bal scored 17 points as Santa Clara defeated Gonzaga for the first time since Jan. 20, 2011. The Broncos (12-6, 3-0) are undefeated in WCC play after three games for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

Anton Watson matched his career high of 32 points on 14-of-18 shooting for the Bulldogs (11-5, 2-1), who were unable to deliver coach Mark Few his 700th career victory. Watson also grabbed nine rebounds and set a career high with six steals.

Bal’s driving hoop caromed off the glass and bounced on the rim four times before falling in to give Santa Clara a one-point lead. Bal was fouled on the play and missed the ensuing free throw, but Gonzaga didn’t get off a final shot as Watson threw the ball directly to Bal just before time expired.

Brenton Knapper scored 16 points for Santa Clara, which trailed for less than eight minutes of the game. Johnny O’Neil scored 11 points and Christoph Tilly and Tyeree Bryan had 10 apiece for the Broncos, who held a 44-31 rebounding advantage.

Ryan Nembhard scored 21 points for Gonzaga and Braden Huff added 14 points off the bench.

Watson scored on a putback to give Gonzaga a 74-72 lead with 2:37 left. Nembhard added a 17-footer with 1:05 remaining to boost the lead to four.

Bal fed O’Neil for a dunk with 50.8 seconds left to bring Santa Clara within two. Later, Bal was fouled with 14.3 seconds left and missed the first before making the second to bring the Broncos within 76-75.

The Broncos made 44.6 percent from the field and were 9 of 28 from behind the arc.

Gonzaga shot 47.8 percent from the field, including a porous 2 of 20 from 3-point range.

Gonzaga trailed by nine with under 16 minutes remaining before breaking loose with a 16-5 spurt.

A three-point play by Huff knotted the score at 56 with 12:05 left. Huff then drove for a layup with 11:37 remaining to give the Zags just their second lead of the game.

Later, Gonzaga held a three-point lead before Knapper knocked down a trey for the Broncos to tie it at 70 with 4:20 left.

Santa Clara held a dominating 27-11 rebounding advantage while holding a 40-34 halftime advantage.

The Broncos trailed for just 11 seconds of the half and led by as many as 13 points. Watson kept Gonzaga in the game with 17 first-half points on 7-of-8 shooting.